Monday, December 27, 2010

Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury
Del Rey, 1953 (my copy is from 1992)
Size: Short (my copy has 165 pages)
Theme: Alternate futuristic society
Narrative: third-person
Main character: Guy Montag
Recommended minimum age: Young adult
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

This novel is set in a futuristic social scenario where many aspects of what we consider contemporary freedom have been abolished. Written literature is forbidden, along with many other forms of expression and art, and information being fed to people by digital media controlled (as expected) by an oppressive government. There are many similarities to the scenarios of the 1984 novel or the Equilibrium movie.

Guy Montag is a fireman, meaning, his job is to find those forbidden works of literature and burn them (along with the house it was hidden in, and usually, its occupants as well). He is quite happy with his life until a neighbor of his, a young girl, awakens doubts in his mind about the purpose of independent thought, and how it was in the past before censorship. He has to struggle with his inner demons and simultaneously decide what path he is going to take, while facing on a daily basis his co-workers, who are trained to identify people who start having illegal thoughts.

The book is well paced, and forces us to bond with the main character and understand the author’s opinion on these sensitive issues. Although written half a century ago, this book still manages to be very relevant for a reader in today’s society, where many of the book’s futuristic technologies have become pervasive in our daily lives (such as the advent of online worldwide connections), and rings too close for comfort.

I have enjoyed it very much, but I felt that other characters could have been explored much deeper. Even the secondary cast, Guy’s wife and one of his superiors, are tackled only superficially. I finished it hoping it was at least twice as long, but it still manages to offer an adequate ending. On the negative side, it leaves very little to the imagination, other than how our society is walking a thin line between order and freedom.

Spoilers (warning: the following text contains information that may hamper/ruin how much you enjoy the book):
Guy has to run from authorities after actually killing his superior, who had come to his house to arrest him. He manages to evade search and joins with other refugees. They live outside cities, and have taken up the task of remembering and sharing among themselves all the books they have read.

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