|Here's a review of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 that I posted on epinions.com |
Diamond Is Carbon.
Apr 26 '04
*Powerful ideas *Compelling dialogue *Imaginative storyline
*Weak prose at times *A bit raw, lacks polish *Strong, but one-dimensional characters
The Bottom Line
A good read. Find some wisdom here. But it fades in comparison to other dystopia-novels like 1984 or Brave New World.
|Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is a gem of a book; but it has a few flawed edges that mar the brilliance. On more than one occasion, I was reminded of the Saddest Words of Man- What could have been and If only...|
On to the story. F451's is a dystopic world in which books have been banned. There is even a Fire-Force whose duty is to burn books. Guy Montag, the protagonist, is a satisfied member of the Force, who enjoys his work. Meet Beatty, his know-it-all boss and the Mechanical Hound, the ruthless instrument of horror, that hunts down wrong-doers. It's a bad, bad world in which people betray their closest friends to the Force just to watch their house burning bright at night!
The seeds of unrest and doubt are planted in Montag when he gets influenced by Clarisse, a sweet young girl who still lives life the old-fashioned and happy way. Montag also meets Faber, an old professor, in a park. The professor quite literally becomes the Voice in Montag's head (He gets a radio-receiver implanted), and our hero becomes just the person he must not be. A lover of books!. Montag is torn between what now seems to him to be the truth and what he has stood for all his life.
Montag's crisis deepens with his ultra-materialistic wife Mildred dragging him down with her constant demands, his Mentor egging him on and his Boss tugging at him to return to the normal, routine life, all of which lead to interesting situations. The main characters are strong-as-rum and are also powerfully developed by the author.
The confrontations between Montag and Beatty form the highlights of the book. The conversations Montag has with the Professor, though good, are not as impressive.
Even though Bradbury is known primarily as a scienc-fiction writer , Fahrenheit 451 is more than just another sci-fi novel. It has substance: nourishing brain-food, in the form of original thoughts and delicious, albeit well-known quotes. A little learning is a dangerous thing/Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring. F451 will help you findyour thinking cap - the philosophical interludes are written powerfully and of course, proverb-fully. Bradbury even has a sure-fire way to get through life all guns blazing! If you don't like them, burn them! These nuggets of wisdom are thought-provoking and entertaining.
Things go from the sublime to the ridiculous at times in Fahrenheit 451. But it is definitely worth its paper, even if only for those sublime parts, and there are many of those. Sci-fi writers have true, original and even brilliant ideas at times, but are often brutally so! They are perfectly capable of calling cute babies human-larvae! Or of calling diamonds glorified clarified carbon-blocks!
Metaphors mixed, readers vexed! Take, for example, the opening sequence of the novel. It describes the protagonist Montag's daily routine of burning books. The author describes the fireman's hose as "...the great python spitting its venomous kerosene..." The python-hose comparison is okay, even good. But... pythons spitting venom??? From wheat to corn! (Just in case you didn't know, pythons are not poisonous. Sorry, but that's just not how pythons kill!) Such segments abound.
The prophet in Bradbury shines through occasionally. His words about books becoming less popular and people getting addicted to TV ring alarmingly true.
Fahrenheit 451 is most often termed a wannabe-1984. Where Orwell's 1984 was a masterpiece, Fahrenheit 451, though pretty good cannot be placed in the same league because it has more than a few flaws. It has as much substance but lacks the style.
But all said, Fahrenheit 451 is a book that you would want to re-read. Some of the concepts are left abstract (purposefully?) and are worth chewing over. Or maybe ponder over some of those similes? There! Again I am reminded of those sad words...if only
Ending with some mandatory bits of trivia. As Bradbury reminds us in an Afterword, Faber is a maker of pencils and Montag is a paper-manufacturer! And Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper burns. Feel the mercury rising! All the way to 233 degrees Celsius...