In 1950, Ray Bradbury had a kernel of an idea for a story, and rented a typewriter in the basement of the UCLA library for nine days (it cost him $9.80). Dashing from the basement to the stacks to track down half-remembered quotations and typing at furious speed, in that short time he produced the first draft of an extraordinary novel. Serialised, widely published, adapted for film, theatre and even opera, the book, as Bradbury wrote, ‘seems to have a life that goes on recreating itself’.
Fahrenheit 451 envisages a dystopian future in which the job of firemen is to seek out books, and burn them. Montag is a fireman who enjoys his job, wearing ‘the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame.’ He agrees with his boss who tells him how much happier people are now, watching endless television at high volume, than when they read books and thought for themselves. Then one night, Montag meets a young girl with ‘unconventional’ habits – walking at night, collecting butterflies and tasting rain. Something about the girl forces Montag to look at his world differently: children in cars running down pedestrians for fun, his wife overdosing regularly on sleeping pills, and his neighbour proud that her children would ‘just as soon kick as kiss me’. Montag realises that ‘we have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy. Something’s missing.’ Such subversive thoughts will lead Montag to rebel – and rebellion has terrible consequences.
Bradbury’s bleak admonitory vision is not of a tyrannical government, but of people who did this to themselves. His fictional dystopia began with a wave of political correctness that censored and silenced uncomfortable opinions; then interactive, reality TV swamped critical thought; and finally, each individual’s ‘right’ to the pursuit of happiness removed any sense of responsibility and even emotion itself. Over 60 years on, the fears raised by Fahrenheit 451 have not lessened. Yet at the book’s heart is a profound optimism: books are symbolic of humankind’s capacity for reflection and understanding, which can save us from our equally powerful capacity for self-destruction. This edition includes a new introduction by science-fiction writer Michael Moorcock and a series of astonishingly life-like illustrations by Sam Weber, which perfectly capture the novel’s haunting atmosphere.
Review by joutsen on 5th Feb 2013
"Notwithstanding the ups and downs of the novel itself, the Folio edition of it is (yet again) one of the best available. The buckram binding looks and feels sufficiently futuristic, while all the rest..." [read more]
Review by bradcrandall on 30th Dec 2012
"Ray Bradbury brings you into the confused and jumbled head of Guy Montag as this main character struggles to reconcile his career with this seemingly mid-life crisis brought on by a seemingly routine ..." [read more]
Review by CarltonC on 7th Jun 2012
"It is a good book, which remains relevant today, but it felt worthy. It has dated in that the ideas, which might have been novel at the time, now feel familiar and well used. The hyper-realistic ill..." [read more]