Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This is a great book. Easy to say, that. “Yeah, it’s a great book.” But this is great in the sense of true, unambiguous greatness. It is not stylistically high art. The language is pretty simple and direct. The greatness lies in the story and what happens; and the advice it offers ( it is only a book after all – take it or leave it, dudes) about where humankind is heading.

It is a science fiction novel, published in 1954. One of the abiding images it contains is the room where all the walls are huge TV screens, with people speaking from them to the person in the room, involving them in a completely fictional life. Asking them questions, responding and using their name. Anyone notice a resemblance to today’s virtual reality games? Or the huge screens we now see on almost every street corner in our cities?

The plot follows the experiences of Montag, who is employed as a ‘fireman’. That is, since the perfection of fireproof houses, someone employed to burn books and the buildings that contain them and the people that own them. It is a powerful image, the state bending its efforts to erase the records of thinking and questioning contained in books. Oh, hang on, wasn’t that exactly what happened in China? And Soviet Russia?

A brilliant book. I have not seen the Truffaut film but now don’t think I need to.


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