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Fahrenheit 451: A Novel
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 24, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
My daughter has received this for the second time now as required reading for school (summer reading requirement). "Oh Mom this book is awful" she said, now for the second time. She read me a paragraph of the book and sure enough, it does sound awful when you read small snippets of the book. This book is not an easy read at all, not because it is overly intellectual -- it's not written very well, sorry Mr. Bradbury -- the author wrote in the afterward, that he wrote it in his early days of writing in various rooms of his house, finally ended up sequestered in his garage. I imagine that if the book was written later in Mr. Bradbury's career, that it would have been written far better than it was -- this is no literary masterpiece, but the concept it contains is a timeless one.
That said, my daughter gave it to me to read and I read it in one sitting, wondering what was going to happen to the main character and how this book would end. This book is about a future society where books are illegal. The government has built a society where simple pleasure is the main goal in life, not meaningful pleasure. People live their lives around TV that takes up entire walls of their homes, no truly educational programming is allowed for the same reason that no books are allowed. The TV in this book creates not just light programming for society, but a family in the wall/screens -- it is mind numbing for that society. People become puppets where they live their lives out in simple ignorance and if you dare question the way things are or attempt to hide any books you are persecuted for it. People are simple minded and unquestioning. Enter Clarissa, the sweet teenage next door neighbor who takes simple pleasure in taking walks, letting the rain fall on her tongue, staying up late in the night actually talking to her family, no TV walls active in her home -- people actually listen to each other. The government is suspicious of her family -- not because they are subversive or publicly questioning society, but because of the way they live and think. Though Clarisse is a character in the book for a very short time, she makes an impact on the main character, Guy the fireman, who envies that she and her family talk to each other, listen to each other, and care so much for each other in a society that only cares about keeping the status quo and not getting in trouble. He begins to question what he is doing, burning books -- not so much because of the book burning itself, but for the lives of the book lovers he wrecks in the process. He begins to wonder what is inside the pages of books that people are willing to die for them and steels one of the books from a home his is destroying. He adds this book to the huge stash of books he has already hidden in the air ducts of his home and actually begins to read them and thus begins his own persecution.
Though this isn't a literary masterpiece, as I said earlier, it is engrossing and very disturbing. The future society created in the pages is a nightmare. The importance of education, reading, and simply caring about your fellow man are the concepts the reader walks away with. I suspect that's the reason it is tirelessly assigned to kids at school.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I never really enjoyed science fiction, but something about this book caught my eye. The story revolves around one lone fireman, Guy Montag, who, oddly enough, sets fire to books instead of putting them out. He lives in a world that doesn't like to see unhappiness and the real truth, so they destroy books and all that causes unhappiness. When he meets a girl who, unlike all of the others, "thinks," not only about life and the deeper meaning behind the events which happen in our daily lives, which we don't acknowledge because we are all so busy, he becomes obsessed with finding out the truth behind those books and behind life. Along the way, he meets Faber, the elderly man who guides him on his journey. There is a certain tragedy in this book, and although the events in this book don't happen in life verbatim, it is remarkably similar to events which happen in everyday life. This appeared to have been a spiritual experience, not only for the characters, but for the author Ray Bradley. The characters are so tortured inside, caught between what they are expected to do and what they know is right. This book made me think more about what life really is about. And, as demonstrated in this book so many times, you never know when your life is going to end, so as it says in the book: "Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you'd drop dead in 10 seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day, every day, sleeping its life away."
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
First off this is an excellent book. I'll not bother to say what it's about `cos everyone else has already done that. What I will say is that this book was written for all of you out there who hated it and want to see it burned. This book tells what is today so very well, with the poetic pose that Bradbury alone can use. No wonder he's only the second person EVER to be printed in TIME, and virtually every major magazine. In one sceen Montag reads poetry to a room of guests, they all burst into tears. The reason for this? They have never heard anything like it before, and can't understand it. Step into any high school English class and you'll find the same thing, kids not understanding and hating the book. Many people hate this book, they don't understand it. It describes mode day perfectly. Look at any college library were they have books that have been banned for being "intororant" "Little House On The Prairie", "The Bible" books that offended. In the world described in this book all, books offend, nobody understand them and if one person doesn't get it WHOOSH! up in flames it goes. That's why student's today read dull gutless books by contemporaries, instead of books to make you think like something by Dante, or Milton. God forbid the poor kid not understand something. A 12-year-old wrote, "This book is supposed to be about the future, but talks it resembles today" NO KIDDING! This alone shows the greatness of this book, it was written 50 years ago, and tells us about ourselves. They also claimed they could "not relate to anyone in the book." What a shock! Got news kid this was written for adults, of COURSE you couldn't relate, how could you? Unless you're abnormally intelligent they couldn't. The teacher who assigned this book to a class of 12-year-olds should have their head examined; they weren't going to get it. Some people say Bradbury has a negative outlook on the future. Anyone who was read a book by him knows that. The reason? Bradbury has a firm grasp on reality, and knows that humans are evil, and will ultimately destroy themselves. He has good cause to be pessimistic, he looks at the modern world and shakes his head, and then try's to do something about it by educating us. For those of you who want to be educated, and are bright enough to understand this book, and the truth it shows, buy it. For the rest of you. Buy a meaningless book by I know not who, and find why nobody knows who they are. And leave book meant for bright people with eyes in their heads alone.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Several reviews on here have given Fahrenheit 451 a low score because they thought the premise was too far-fetched. These reviewers aren't aware of the situations that exist in certain theocracies around the world. Afghanistan under the Taliban outlawed television and women were not allowed to read or educate themselves. In several Middle East countries, merely speaking up against the government makes you a target.
Bradbury looked at different phenomena in our society- the desire to not offend anyone, the dumbing-down of a society in love with television, etc., and simply extrapolated these until he reached an end very similar to the conditions that existed under the Taliban.
Part of the point of science fiction is to be far-fetched, but good science fiction uses those far-fetched ideas to warn us of the dangers of the present, in this case the dangers of censorship, of political correctness, of television, and anyone who thinks those dangers are not real, that this book doesn't have relevant warnings, hasn't studied the real world enough.
Everyone should read this book. It's an entertaining and easy read but also has a lot of idealogical depth behind it for those who are willing to think and read at the same time. If you don't want to think about what you read, well, go watch TV and be done with it!
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a very twisted book based on a time many years from now. A time when books weren't made to be read, but to be burned. Guy Montag, the main character in this story never questioned why books were to be burned. He just went on with his job as a fireman and burnt them along with the homes of many brave people who wished to rebel against the wishes of an obviousely deprived society. One day he meets a young woman who tells him of a time when books were made to be enjoyed and not burned, and when people had the right to express their feelings by writing them. He also meets a scientist who helps him in his quest to find as many books as possible and read them all. He is later caught when his crazy wife, Milly, sounds the alarm that he has hidden books in their home. When the house is burned Montag kills his former boss, Captain Beaty, with a flame thrower. He then tries to escape the town and is almost caught, but makes his way to the forest and finds a group of highly educated people who have been through the same trails as he. He then joins there little circle and is never caught.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 4, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The basic premise behind Ray Bradbury's novel 'Fahrenheit 451' is compelling. In the future, fireman don't put out fires, they start them. It is their job to seek out books and put them to the flame, making sure that no one indulges in the 'crime' of reading one. But what makes this nightmare so interesting, and relevant, is that it was not forced upon the people by their government, but was decided upon by the people themselves. Minority groups, religions, and ethnicities, who were offended by the words of writers, simply made reading unpopular and convinced the world that books were, first, a waste of time, and then the root of all evil. A wonderful 'Negative Utopia' novel in the tradition of '1984' and 'Brave New World' Bradbury's novel differs in his writing style. His prose is difficult to follow and at times leaves the reader unimpressed. If you can you're not easily turned off by Bradbury's odd and difficult way of writing perhaps you'll enjoy the deeper message of this work.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
I'm not a fan of science fiction, and so when my book group chose this book as its monthly selection to read, I was dubious. But then I started reading this small, seemingly simple little book and I was hooked - completely. Yes, it's science fiction. Yes, it requires the reader to accept the reality of a world that is a figment of the author's imagination. Yes, it deals with censorship and book burning and the dangers of mindless feel-good entertainment. And yes, it has a great plot and tells the fast paced story in a mere 165 pages. But in this case, the total effect is much much more than the sum of its parts.

There's the quality of the writing first of all. The words run across the page with searing intensity, pulling the reader into a world that feels real and creepy. It pulsates with its theme, which is of fire and firemen and the cruel act of destroying books. It's intelligent and literate and uses some direct quotes from revered thinkers. And then there are some parts that were so humorous that I laughed out loud. Every line resonates with tension. It is a wonderful tale. And, to top it all off, it is optimistic.

One of the joys of reading this book is that we have the hindsight of understanding it was written in 1950. The author has that that hindsight as well, and there are an additional 23 pages in the paperback edition, written by the author more than 50 years later. These few pages add dimension to an already complete book and should not be missed. I have no doubt that Fahrenheit 451 is now seared in my mind as being one of the finest books I've every read. It gets my highest recommendation. Don't miss it!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This novel is, in my opinion, Bradbury's absolute best. Bradbury's excellent prose allowed some of his novels to escape the "science fiction ghetto" and surely this is one book that made the jump over the barbed wire.
The plot is simple but shocking; books are dangerous to a trivial and controlling culture--therefore, burn them. Without books, there can be no memory of how things were or should be. Montag is a fireman who's job is, of course, to start fires and create bonfires of contraband books. His wife is absolutely shallow and "normal"--she watches the daily soaps on TV, which in this futuristic society are full wall-sized plasma screens. She nags Montag to earn more so she can install a fourth screen and surround the room with the escape from reality. Even some part of her, however, senses the bleakness of the world, and witlessly tries to escape in an overdose of drugs.
Montag is dedicated in his work, but perhaps his investigative nature leads him into the world of the contraband book-hoarders. What drives a man to leap upon a funeral pyre of his library? A shaken Montag must find out.
Bradbury sketches the frightening world of a society with non-readers and non-thinkers, dumbed down by design. What did he see in the 50's that we are just realizing today? He was not only amazingly prescient in his description of wall-sized flatscreen TV, but in the trend to a world where education, reading, and reason are being made extinct, if not downright subversive. Read this novel and marvel at Bradbury's chilling insights.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I first read F451 in high school... and was moved by it. This was a book that at once fueled my teenage-born desire to fight "the man" and inspired me to become a science fiction author myself.

So why am I writing this review now, more that a decade (sadly, much more than a decade) after high school? Well, I just read F451 again. It is now April, 2004. I am amazed at just how accurate Bradbury's future is. If the "slaves to our TV's" accusation doesn't strike close enough to the bulls-eye, just look at the role of war in F451 and then turn on CNN and watch for 5 minutes.

Bradbury has hit the nail on its proverbial head; in his verbose-yet-eloquent style he has painted a horrible and terrifying future where man fears and scorns knowledge and wisdom. It has gotten to the point where firemen no longer put out fires, but start them--to burn the books which embody everything that is dangerous to a society that fears free will.

Reading this again, now, I couldn't help resurrecting a memory. I was at work in the high-tech field (before the crash)... I make a habit of either reading or writing during my lunch hour, and a coworker had made a comment along the lines of "why on Earth would you read a book when you can get all the entertainment you'd ever want online?". Reading F451, I remember this person, and imagine them in a "parlor" with their fabricated online "Tv walls" that cater to their egos and their banal desire for raw and stupid entertainment.

My advice to those who don't typically read, those who have siblings or offspring who do not read, and those who think anything that isn't digital is unworthy of their attention: Read this book. The main story (sans afterword, etc.) is only about 160 pages long. There's no excuse. read it.

Those who do read (and especially those who write): this is a classic for a reason, and Bradbury's poetic quality is very enjoyable. He creates only a few characters in this book, but from the start you have such depth in the lead man (montag) that you feel pity for him as his wife's stomach is pumped, and you understand why he is drawn to the spirit that is Clarisse. Because you will have the privilege of reading this far beyond the time in which it was written, you will both fear the "hound" and relate to it. You will also relate to the TV walls and (unless you live underground in isolation) you will begin to fear what the modern media has become.

[edit - You shouldn't burn books. Certainly not Cluck: Murder Most Fowl. I wrote it, so please forgive the self-promotion, but also please check out my book. Thanks, -edk]
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'm not going to waste a lot of time describing _Fahrenheit 451_. There's over 1,000 reviews on Amazon alone. I'm sure most people know that it tells of a dystopian future in which books have been banned, and how firemen are employed to start fires instead of fighting them. Even some of those who have not read the book have at least that superficial idea.

What makes _Fahrenheit 451_ so nightmarish is how this society came to be. This was not the result of a totalitarian dictator or government, it was the will of the people. Somewhere along the way, people tired of being challenged, both intellectually and morally, by books. Bland, inoffensive, and mind-numbing forms of recreation dominated the cultural landscape. Commentators on the ailments of the human condition became enemies of the state, while the true disease itself went unchecked. There are quite a few out there who think something like this can't happen in these "enlightened" times.

It's already happening. The cirriculum throughout the American school system is being dumbed down far below the capabilities of the average student. Public libraries are being underfunded, and in many cases, closed down completely. Authors and intellectuals are given far less reverence than celebrities who hold on to their fame through idiotic publicity stunts rather than through talent and hard work.

So, I might not have told you anything you don't know already. I won't be offended if you choose to brush off everything I mentioned previous to the point I'm about to make. Read _Fahrenheit 451_. Take a good look at the cultural and intellectual climate of society today. Ask yourself if this is what you want our future to be.

Me neither.
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