Cannonball Read IV: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles have appeared here before from previous Reads, along with many other Bradbury reviews on Cannonballers’ individual blogs. With the passing of Ray Bradbury, we offer a review from one of this year’s participants, and we tip our hats to one of the most legendary science fiction authors of the 20th century. Rest in Peace, Ray Bradbury. —mswas
I always find when I read older sci-fi just how much these guys get it right. In the case of Farenheit 451 it’s the frenetic pace of life in the future mixed with the disturbing Stepford, “aren’t we all jolly and alike” vibe with an extremely prescient look at the role entertainment (particularly television) has in culture - that I feel can be so accurate and so….chilling.
The opening line of the book is famous, ‘It was a pleasure to burn.’
Doesn’t it give you chills? Make you want to run out, grab a copy (or creak open your old one) and sit to read the story immediately? It did me.
From the longing, loving way Bradbury describes fire in those early pages:
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 ever went away, as long as he remembered.
and the frenetic, paranoic middle where our man Montag starts to truly look at his world:
…Burn the book. Serenity, Montag. Peace, Montag. Take your fight outside. Better yet, into the incinerator. Funerals are unhappy and pagan? Eliminate them, too. Five minutes after a person is dead he’s on his way to the Big Flue, the incinerators are serviced by helicopters all over the country. Ten minutes after death a man’s a speck of black dust. Let’s not quibble over individuals with memoriums. Forget them. Burn all, burn everything. Fire is bright and fire is clean.
to an almost ecstatic ending that had me trying to imagine a world where these things don’t exist in the palm of our hands ( a book about the obliteration of books!).
I’d wanted, at the start of this project, to read the things I’d missed along the way - some high literature and some low (I’ve read seven of the Janet Evanovich books fer chrissakes), in a funny way this story has made every page I’ve read worthwhile, made the written word sacred in a way that I’ve not felt in a long time. /cheeseball
This read was intensely satisfying and short. Take the time, if you haven’t, to read a masterwork that still burns bright (pun intended).
(Header illustration by Luis Caballero.)
For more of lapandarouge’s reviews, check out her blog, La Panda Rouge.
This review is part of Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it.
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