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Fahrenheit 451 [Mass Market Paperback]

Ray Bradbury
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,303 customer reviews)


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's classic, frightening vision of the future, firemen don't put out fires--they start them in order to burn books. Bradbury's vividly painted society holds up the appearance of happiness as the highest goal--a place where trivial information is good, and knowledge and ideas are bad. Fire Captain Beatty explains it this way, "Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs.... Don't give them slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy."

Guy Montag is a book-burning fireman undergoing a crisis of faith. His wife spends all day with her television "family," imploring Montag to work harder so that they can afford a fourth TV wall. Their dull, empty life sharply contrasts with that of his next-door neighbor Clarisse, a young girl thrilled by the ideas in books, and more interested in what she can see in the world around her than in the mindless chatter of the tube. When Clarisse disappears mysteriously, Montag is moved to make some changes, and starts hiding books in his home. Eventually, his wife turns him in, and he must answer the call to burn his secret cache of books. After fleeing to avoid arrest, Montag winds up joining an outlaw band of scholars who keep the contents of books in their heads, waiting for the time society will once again need the wisdom of literature.

Bradbury--the author of more than 500 short stories, novels, plays, and poems, including The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man--is the winner of many awards, including the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America. Readers ages 13 to 93 will be swept up in the harrowing suspense of Fahrenheit 451, and no doubt will join the hordes of Bradbury fans worldwide. --Neil Roseman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. After years of working as a fireman--one who burns books and enjoys his work--Guy Montag meets a young girl who makes him question his profession and the values of the society in which he lives. Stephan Hoye's narration is perfectly matched to the subject matter: his tone is low and ominous, and his cadence shifts with the prose to ratchet up tension and suspense. He produces spot-on voices, and his versions of the gruff Captain Beatty, the playful Clarisse, and the fearful professor Faber are especially impressive. A Ballantine paperback. (Aug.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Review

"Stephen Hoye's narration is perfectly matched to the subject matter: his tone is low and ominous, and his cadence shifts with the prose to ratchet up tension and suspense." ---Publishers Weekly Starred Audio Review --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From the Publisher

FARENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury
There are some books that no matter how long ago you've read them, details
from the story stick in your mind. Farenheit 451 was like that for me. I
was 15 when I first checked it out from the high school library. I hadn't
really gotten very far into the book when a cute guy noticed I was carrying
it around school.
"Good book," he commented.
"Yeah, I'm still reading it," I answered. Wow, I thought, approval from an
older guy. That gave me the incentive to finish what turned out to be one
of the most important sf novels ever written.
It's been more than 20 years since I've spoken to but I'll always feel
grateful to him whenever I hear about bookburnings. His tiny bit of
encouragement introduced me to one of the genre's finest writers.

--Amy Stout, Consulting Editor

From the Inside Flap

Nowadays firemen start fires. Fireman Guy Montag loves to rush to a fire and watch books burn up. Then he met a seventeen-year old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid, and a professor who told him of a future where people could think. And Guy Montag knew what he had to do....

About the Author

Ray Bradbury is America's foremost writer of science fiction and fantasy. Among his most popular adult books are Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, and Death is a Lonely Business. In addition, he has written several books for children, including Switch on the Night. In recognition of his stature in the world of literature and the impact he has had on so many for so many years, Bradbury was awarded the National Book Foundation's 2000 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and the National Medal of Arts in 2004.

He lives in Los Angeles.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

It was a pleasure to burn.

It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.

Montag grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame.

He knew that when he returned to the firehouse, he might wink at himself, a minstrel man, burnt-corked, in the mirror. Later, going to sleep, he would feel the fiery smile still gripped by his face muscles, in the dark. It never went away, that smile, it never ever went away, as long as he remembered.

He hung up his black beetle-colored helmet and shined it; he hung his flameproof jacket neatly; he showered luxuriously, and then, whistling, hands in pockets, walked across the upper floor of the fire station and fell down the hole. At the last moment, when disaster seemed positive, he pulled his hands from his pockets and broke his fall by grasping the golden pole. He slid to a squeaking halt, the heels one inch from the concrete floor downstairs.

He walked out of the fire station and along the midnight street toward the subway where the silent air-propelled train slid soundlessly down its lubricated flue in the earth and let him out with a great puff of warm air onto the cream-tiled escalator rising to the suburb.

Whistling, he let the escalator waft him into the still night air. He walked toward the corner, thinking little at all about nothing in particular. Before he reached the corner, however, he slowed as if a wind had sprung up from nowhere, as if someone had called his name.

The last few nights he had had the most uncertain feelings about the sidewalk just around the corner here, moving in the starlight toward his house. He had felt that a moment prior to his making the turn, someone had been there. The air seemed charged with a special calm as if someone had waited there, quietly, and only a moment before he came, simply turned to a shadow and let him through. Perhaps his nose detected a faint perfume, perhaps the skin on the backs of his hands, on his face, felt the temperature rise at this one spot where a person’s standing might raise the immediate atmosphere ten degrees for an instant. There was no understanding it. Each time he made the turn, he saw only the white, unused, buckling sidewalk, with perhaps, on one night, something vanishing swiftly across a lawn before he could focus his eyes or speak.

But now tonight, he slowed almost to a stop. His inner mind, reaching out to turn the corner for him, had heard the faintest whisper. Breathing? Or was the atmosphere compressed merely by someone standing very quietly there, waiting?

He turned the corner.

The autumn leaves blew over the moonlit pavement in such a way as to make the girl who was moving there seem fixed to a sliding walk, letting the motion of the wind and the leaves carry her forward. Her head was half bent to watch her shoes stir the circling leaves. Her face was slender and milk-white, and in it was a kind of gentle hunger that touched over everything with tireless curiosity. It was a look, almost, of pale surprise; the dark eyes were so fixed to the world that no move escaped them. Her dress was white and it whispered. He almost thought he heard the motion of her hands as she walked, and the infinitely small sound now, the white stir of her face turning when she discovered she was a moment away from a man who stood in the middle of the pavement waiting.

The trees overhead made a great sound of letting down their dry rain. The girl stopped and looked as if she might pull back in surprise, but instead stood regarding Montag with eyes so dark and shining and alive that he felt he had said something quite wonderful. But he knew his mouth had only moved to say hello, and then when she seemed hypnotized by the salamander on his arm and the phoenix disc on his chest, he spoke again.

“Of course,” he said, “you’re our new neighbor, aren’t you?”

“And you must be”—she raised her eyes from his professional symbols “—the fireman.” Her voice trailed off.

“How oddly you say that.”

“I’d—I’d have known it with my eyes shut,” she said, slowly.

“What—the smell of kerosene? My wife always complains,” he laughed. “You never wash it off completely.”

“No, you don’t,” she said, in awe.

He felt she was walking in a circle about him, turning him end for end, shaking him quietly, and emptying his pockets, without once moving herself.

“Kerosene,” he said, because the silence had lengthened, “is nothing but perfume to me.”

“Does it seem like that, really?”

“Of course. Why not?”

She gave herself time to think of it. “I don’t know.” She turned to face the sidewalk going toward their homes. “Do you mind if I walk back with you? I’m Clarisse McClellan.”

“Clarisse. Guy Montag. Come along. What are you doing out so late wandering around? How old are you?”

They walked in the warm-cool blowing night on the silvered pavement and there was the faintest breath of fresh apricots and strawberries in the air, and he looked around and realized this was quite impossible, so late in the year.

There was only the girl walking with him now, her face bright as snow in the moonlight, and he knew she was working his questions around, seeking the best answers she could possibly give.

“Well,” she said, “I’m seventeen and I’m crazy. My uncle says the two always go together. When people ask your age, he said, always say seventeen and insane. Isn’t this a nice time of night to walk? I like to smell things and look at things, and sometimes stay up all night, walking, and watch the sun rise.”

They walked on again in silence and finally she said, thoughtfully, “You know, I’m not afraid of you at all.”

He was surprised. “Why should you be?”

“So many people are. Afraid of firemen, I mean. But you’re just a man, after all . . .”

He saw himself in her eyes, suspended in two shining drops of bright water, himself dark and tiny, in fine detail, the lines about his mouth, everything there, as if her eyes were two miraculous bits of violet amber that might capture and hold him intact. Her face, turned to him now, was fragile milk crystal with a soft and constant light in it. It was not the hysterical light of electricity but—what? But the strangely comfortable and rare and gently flattering light of the candle. One time, as a child, in a power failure, his mother had found and lit a last candle and there had been a brief hour of rediscovery, of such illumination that space lost its vast dimensions and grew comfortably around them, and they, mother and son, alone, transformed, hoping that the power might not come on again too soon . . .

And then Clarisse McClellan said:

“Do you mind if I ask? How long’ve you worked at being a fireman?”

“Since I was twenty, ten years ago.”

“Do you ever read any of the books you burn?”

He laughed. “That’s against the law!”

“Oh. Of course.”

“It’s fine work. Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn ’em to ashes, then burn the ashes. That’s our official slogan.”

They walked still farther and the girl said, “Is it true that long ago firemen put fires out instead of going to start them?”

“No. Houses have always been fireproof, take my word for it.”

“Strange. I heard once that a long time ago houses used to burn by accident and they needed firemen to stop the flames.”

He laughed.

She glanced quickly over. “Why are you laughing?”

“I don’t know.” He started to laugh again and stopped. “Why?”

“You laugh when I haven’t been funny and you answer right off. You never stop to think what I’ve asked you.”

He stopped walking. “You are an odd one,” he said, looking at her. “Haven’t you any respect?”

“I don’t mean to be insulting. It’s just I love to watch people too much, I guess.”

“Well, doesn’t this mean anything to you?” He tapped the numerals 451 stitched on his char-colored sleeve.

“Yes,” she whispered. She increased her pace. “Have you ever watched the jet cars racing on the boulevards down that way?”

“You’re changing the subject!”

“I sometimes think drivers don’t know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them slowly,” she said. “If you showed a driver a green blur, Oh yes! he’d say, that’s grass! A pink blur! That’s a rose garden! White blurs are houses. Brown blurs are cows. My uncle drove slowly on a highway once. He drove forty miles an hour and they jailed him for two days. Isn’t that funny, and sad, too?”

From AudioFile

"Was it always like this?" Guy Montag asks. "Didn't firemen prevent fires rather than ... get them going?" Thus Montag begins to examine himself and his world, a world ominously like our own, hurtling mindlessly through sensory overload to its own destruction. More than the story, reader William Roberts is added reason to re-examine this '50's classic. Roberts creates character like a virtuoso actor. While the males--Montag, Beatty and Faber--are voiced individually, all females except Clarisse, are characterized as thin, whining and insipid. They, above all, typify the barrenness of this self-destructive world. Thus, Fahrenheit 451 becomes a lively and believable morality play for young head-setters. P.E.F. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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