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Fahrenheit 451
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on January 13, 2009
Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451* over 50 years ago; it's theme of the 'Big Brother' autocratic society, has often had it compared to Orwell's 1984.

Before I read this book I knew absolutely nothing of the story or its draconian motif. So finding out the altered definition of 'fireman' that this book refers to was a revelation, to say the least.

The story: *SPOILER*

This is the tale of Guy Montag, a 'fireman' within this repressed society; a society in which 'happiness' is permitted and even encouraged, but free thinking is frowned upon in the strongest terms. And what is the most obvious example of free thinking...why books of course. Thus we discover that Montag is a 'fireman' and his job is to burn books; burn books, so that no one in the future will every get a sense of history or get any ideas about changing the present regieme into a free thinking society. Montag's problem is that he begins to wonder if what he's doing is right; thus his personal revolt begins, and not surprisingly he finds friends and enemies in unexpected places.

I liked the style in which Bradbury developed Montag; Everyone in this society is suppose to be happy, but Montag is increasingly unhappy. He is constantly talking to himself, always doubting himself and his new, 'radical' thoughts. It's not difficult to feel empathy towards Montag as he becomes increasingly uncomfortable with his position and he begins to question his thinking and his own sanity. His wife (and her friends), his job and his desire to read books all contribute in ways to reduce his ability to handle his increasingly difficult situation.

Subjectively, I liked the first 2/3s of the book better than the latter; not knowing anything about this tale added to the intrigue and mystery at the beginning, making it hard to put the book down. I didn't find the latter 1/3 quite as 'believable' and that compelling sense of urgency that defined the first part seemed to disappear, and for this I took off 1/2 Star.

A great book, much different than I'd expected. Well written, with a wonderfully developed hero; giving us many glimpses of a distressed and complex personality who is in an ongoing battle with his own inner demons, and a waffling conscience that's unsure of it's moral obligations as it fights to maintain his sanity.

Interesting to see that some of Bradbury's thoughts of the future are not all that far off in certain parts of the world today; some maybe closer to home that we'd like to believe.

* 451 deg. Fahrenheit, is the temperature at which paper begins to scorch and crumple.
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VINE VOICEon June 13, 2012
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a book I've been meaning to read, was on my list, but was only spurred on to pick up by Bradbury's death. I read The Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine ages and ages ago so it was with pleasure that I returned to rediscover Bradbury's brilliance.

Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires. And he enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs or the joy of watching pages consumed by flames, never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then Guy met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think. And Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do...

I did know going in that Fahrenheit 451 was set in a dystopian society in which firemen burned books. All books. To ashes. Which made it hard for me to breathe. That feeling persisted throughout the entirety of Fahrenheit 451. Thank goodness it was a quick read. To be honest I skimmed over some passages, much like I would a gory, overly graphic horror scene.

"It was a pleasure to burn."

From this iconic first line on, Fahrenheit 451 moved at a fast, intense clip. It's refreshing to be reminded of how a great story doesn't need to be stretched out into two-three book series like so many books I come across nowadays. Bradbury's writing is economical and compact; despite the radical vision he's presenting, Fahrenheit 451 doesn't indulge in tedious info-dumping or an unnecessary scenes. Though the plot is full of shocking action, it also has many scenes that illustrate Montag's internal struggles.

Reading Fahrenheit 451 was very disturbing. Not so much because of the horror of book burning, but because the alternate history that Bradbury painted stemming from censorship is possible, even in this day and age. The unquestioning, drugged-like state of the general population is frightening because it can happen and does happen to some degree today. Everyone is numbed by artificial, dumbed down entertainment. Instead of TVs, there are entire TV walls surrounding people. Seashell earbuds fill their heads with ceaseless, lulling noise. No one has face-to-face conversations anymore. People accidentally on purpose overdose on sleeping pills - yet they don't even know how unhappy they are. Everyone goes around in a haze of oblivion, so much so that no one knows there's even a war going on.

The symbolic figure of this dead and deadened world is Guy Montag, a fireman who sets fire to books. In the beginning of Fahrenheit 451, he revels in the power and spectacle of burning these hated things. But in the course of meeting a girl and an old man, both of whom infect him with the idea that the world was once different, Guy suddenly finds himself having a massive crisis of the heart, mind, and soul. From then on, life as he knows it explodes.

One thing that bothered me about Fahrenheit 451 was the kind of books that "rebels" held as worth saving at all costs, even their lives. First of all, no books by female authors. Secondly, the Bible plays a big role. Which is ironic to me since most censors and book banners cling to the Bible as their reason for banning books in the first place.

"'Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You'd find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more "literary" you are. That's my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.'"
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on July 2, 2012
I finally finished reading Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury. For such a small book I sure took my time finishing it. I did not enjoy this book. It had its moments, as do all books, but they were minimal. The characters don't develop much, and the ending is a bit extreme. I'm not a fan of long books but this one was just too short for the story to go anywhere. The ending felt rushed and a bit too dramatic for the speed at which it developed. I probably won't read another Bradbury book for a long time. This book was so hyped up, and for me it just didn't deliver.
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on February 13, 2012
WARNING: some people complained about this review because I gave away the ending. SORRY, so stop reading this if you haven't read this book and for some insane reason, want to. This book is just plain terrible. Ray Bradbury seems like a depressed, misogynistic misanthrope who can't tell a good story either. Can't we find something else for our high schoolers to read? Just how old are the people who make the school board decisions about what is considered literature? Are they just too lazy to find something newer...like written in the last half century? I liked Ray Bradbury back in the early 70's when his books seemed somehow daring or antiestablishment, but now they just seem outdated and depressing. There is nothing "classic" about this book either. Reading this book makes me feel suicidal, and not in a good way. Principally because it is just so boring and unbelievable and well, weird. I reread it when my daughter had it for 9th grade English and couldn't believe the crapola of it. Please, there are so many better books for kids to read now. FInd something else and take this "literature" off the list of required reading. Here's a spoiler - (now stop reading this review if you want to read the book) .....the cute girl in the book dies. OK? Now go read something interesting and let Ray Bradbury RIP.
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on November 3, 2006
I already wrote a review of this one that Amazon dot com must have lost or something because it did not show up after even like 5 days.

That does not surprise me for reasons I will explain in a minute but first you came here to see a review of the book and so here you go and then I will get back to my earlier point.

This book is about a fireman in the future only in the future there is no longer any fire at all so instead of putting out fires he lights books on fire but he does not like to make fires so then he quits being a fireman. I swear thats what the book is about and I know it makes no sense I didnt understand it either. Why is he a fireman? I DONT KNOW! NOBODY KNOWS!

But the real problems started when I returned this book to my local library and now they say I did not return it at all even though I did and it was in a pile of other books which! I returned all at the same time together so I know. But now they say I owe the library $7 for a new book even though it was used. Whatever.

My advice: this book is cursed or something because everything about it gets lost even a review OF THE BOOK THAT I ALREADY WROTE. I am going to go back to the library next week and I bet its back on the shelf laughing at me with my $7 in its hand.

I hate this book but to be fair it rates TWO STARS because I guess it is okay if you like stories about firemen which I do.
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on August 13, 2014
Good heavens, this book was awful. This was required reading for my school, so it is extremely unlikely that I would have read it otherwise since I don't care for science fiction at all. I got through it really quickly, in a day and a half--it really wasn't difficult to read--but, jeez, every time I put the book down for a break, I'd say to myself, 'What the heck is this?'

Be warned of spoilers--that is, if that's a concern to you, since I'd advise never wasting the time with this book.

Seriously, why is this such a 'classic'? The plot is absurd and predictable. Absolutely no twists or even remotely engaging portions of the story. It's a vacuous mess. Of course the 'good guy' lives, of course the dystopian city suffers destruction at the end, by--who would've guessed?--an atomic bomb to put everything out at once! Are you THAT cheap, Bradbury?

The character development is extremely weak and rushed. Clarisse is thrown at you within the first few pages of the book and is killed off quickly. What makes her so incredible, anyway? She's seventeen and spits out all this philosophical jibberish, which somehow allows Guy Montag to make a 180-degree turn in his opinions right away. Upon our first meeting Mildred, Montag's wife, she has a failed suicide attempt, for which we are given no further information later in the story.

Beatty is probably the stupidest, most predictable antagonist I've come across. The whole scene where he forces Montag to burn his own house is laughable; it reeks of the stereotypical, superficial Disney-villain trope. Then how Montag just murders him shortly after? What on earth? That annoying and useless scene, too, where he recalls his dream and recites all of these random quotes that mean nothing, other than that Bradbury must've had a ball flipping through a 'famous quotations' book and finding the ones that sounded the most sophisticated.

There isn't any significant point of internal conflict that Montag faces from what I can recall. He changes the way he sees the world way too quickly for it to be relatable or realistic. Why is he buying into this weird stuff that his teenage neighbour is rambling about within days of meeting her? Montag has been working as a fireman for some ten years, and this ONE instance of burning the woman and her books affects him so deeply? Were there really no other times like this in all those years of burning books and houses? Didn't Montag thoroughly enjoy and take pride in his job just a few days prior? Why is the hero so gullible and without any real consequence?

You're given absolutely no time to see and understand these characters. Everything is thrown at you, and once the character's part is played, they disappear. Clarisse, Beatty, Mildred, the freaking Mechanical Hound. There is no chance for the reader to make any connections or feel any sympathy towards them.

What bothers me the most, however, is that these Harvard-graduate, intellectual elitists are portrayed as the 'good guys'. So they've memorised the works of Marcus Aurelius, Thoreau, Dante... yeah, and? Sure, it's pretty. Yes, it's become renowned literature for one reason or another. The author, however, seems to present the idea that if people aren't up-to-par with these literary works, a productive society cannot be maintained. This is just ludicrous.

I do not wish to argue that these aforementioned works are not significant, but when does the author give us any other examples of 'books' besides the Bible and the Book of Ecclesiastes? These seem to be the only kinds of books that have any meaning according to Bradbury. Nothing practical, nothing just about anyone could understand or appreciate.

It's THESE guys who win, some stuck-up bureaucrats who are so super-smart and have no other purpose other than to retain a few lines of Shakespeare. Not anyone with a fair understanding of the world, good intentions; anyone who feels that there is meaning in their life and feels that they can make some sort of change, however small. Even though the book does actually pass over this kind of idea with Granger's describing his grandfather--the only part of the story I even remotely enjoyed--it is immediately contradicted and trodden into the dirt. The books says it itself, 'You're not important. You're not anything.' What kind of message is that? It's downright depressing and almost dehumanising.

This book is pretentious, obsolete, and worth no one's effort. Frankly just outright stupid.
If any book deserves to be burned, it's this one.
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on January 2, 2000
This book is absolutely amazing. It describes a time in the future where censorship prevails and minds are caged. Nobody has original thoughts; with the abolishing of books creativity was lost as well. Guy Montag, the protagonist, is a fireman (firemen burn books in this story) who has to fight to pull himself from the grip of an overpowering government and tradition, only to see that it is all useless (why teach to people who can't understand?). The novel shows what censorship can do to a society, and why individuals must not accept the norm without questioning its integrity and implications. Overall, read this book immediately and apply what you learn from it into everyday life.
By the way, ignore all of the reviewers that gave the book a low score because they could not understand the plot and symbolism. Their comments are similar to saying Shakespeare's works are poorly written because he uses odd vocabulary and the plot is too complex. Unfortunately, these people make of the mass of society, which is why these reviews are commonplace. (The funny thing is, the novel specifically targets these kind of people...)
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on November 27, 2014
Very much the American 1984... and I don't mean that in a good way. While Orwell's work is subtle, entertaining, intelligent and incredibly powerful, Fahrenheit 451 spoon feeds you it's message like a patronising primary school teacher.
It leaves no room for interpretation or thought and comes across as a 14 year old's attempt to write something clever, rather than bringing forth any original or interesting insight. Worse than this though, it fails to be entertaining, and being entertaining, even in a novel with a message (even one as simple as "doing bad things is bad", which is what 451's amounts to) should be the primary aim.
The writing style is convoluted and childish, the story containing zero original concepts, and the whole thing is just rather uninspiring. I strongly suspect the only reason this book gained so much attention is because of the nationality of its author, as it is perhaps the only American title tackling government in a way unrelated to race or sexism.

In short, if you're considering reading this, don't. Bradbury is to Orwell what a wet turd is to a filet mignon, so go with the latter. If you've already read Orwell's works then don't bother with 451, it doesn't even verge on the same calibre.
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on November 5, 2015
In a future society, books are forbidden and "firemen" responsible for burning the remaining titles. That's the job of one Guy Montag, but he begins to question his role as he gets in contact with a teenager who reads secretly. And he becomes himself a criminal reader of smuggled books.

The most surprising thing about Fahrenheit 451 is that it's premise could, in the hands of a lesser writer, easily turn a condescending little lesson about the importance of reading books. But like any work of art that would be missed if it was burned, Fahrenheit 451 doesn't want to give you answers. The book wants you to ask questions.

The main point for me is not that books are burned. That is only the most dramatic side of something bigger: that society allows them to be burned, and that no one is interested in reading in the first place. The only sources of distraction for the denizens of Fahrenheit 451 are sports or soap operas in televisions the size of entire walls. The speed of television does not allow you to stop and think, just swallow that entertainment loaf. From this insipid entertainment are born people who literally talk to the walls and a society unable to question.

Montag's wife, Mildred is one example. She can't talk about anything other than the soaps or what threatens her financial security. She is a cattle-person, described as having an invisible cataract behind her pupils, afraid of anything different, incapable of thinking or feeling without directions from the TV or authorities. Montag discovers how they can't connect to one another because in the end they don't know their own history. And without that knowledge you can't even know who you are, or what you want.

Today is 2015, and the society described in Fahrenheit 451 seems even more palpable than when the book was written in 1953. The internet shortens our attention span towards shorter and simpler texts and videos. More than ever we more intelligent - we have access to an ocean of information literally at our finger tips - but we are not wise. We don't know what to do with our information.

And we have no memory. The social media timelines dictate the discussion of the day, what funny video is trending, what news we should be disgusted with, what meme will be the big joke for a day or two before it is once again forgotten. Fahrenheit 451 even reminds us of the "mass society judgments" that lead to self-censorship.

I believe reading is fundamentally important for wisdom, more than any other art form. Reading is solitary work. It demands silence, and to let your ideas absorb the author's, contest them, accept or adapt. Fahrenheit 451 says that you can't make others think, but I believe it comes with a good recipe for wisdom: "Number one, like I said, is quality of information. Number two: time to digest. And number three: the right to conduct your actions based on what we learn from the two previous items."
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on December 1, 2011
How ironic that a book about limiting access to books is NOT text-to-speech enabled. By preventing access to TTS, the publisher has denied my blind husband the opportunity to read this book on his Kindle through text-to-speech as he wants to do. He will not buy audio books so the publisher makes no sale at all. He bought his Kindle for the express purpose of being able to read books through the text-to-speech function. Unfortunately, too many books have this feature disabled - often through Simon & Schuster. It is especially ironic that the publisher would limit the blind community's access through Kindle TTS when this book centers around removing access to books. Everyone loses.
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