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Fahreinheit 451


Ray Bradbury

Fahreinheit 451
average rating is 5 out of 5

Dystopia, Science Fiction

R. Alex Jenkins

It’s hard to believe this book was written in 1954, with its vision and foresight into what the internet, social media and marketing would become, constantly bombarding us with unsolicited information.

You’ve got to love Ray Bradbury for being slightly out of his gourd and for his uncanny use of metaphors and repetitive similes and for pouring his ideas into the souls of his characters. We all feel like the main character Montag sometimes in a world beyond our control, being forced to observe a society spinning out of control.

Dystopia is a hard subject to tackle because of how unhinged things can become and, to be fair, Fahrenheit 451 isn’t quite as profound or involving as similar books like Nineteen Eighty-Four or Brave New World, but also better than dystopian oddities like Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut or We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which are even more bizarre.

This is an odd book envisaged as retro-futuristic dystopia, dangerously close to bonkers and warbling diatribe at times, with the final third being too vague and abstract for a 10/10 rating, but still a five-star read for what it represents: the knowledge that we’re ultimately doomed, surrounded by zombies, encircled by impending viral death, about to be eradicated by the Martians or constantly being watched and manipulated by Big Brother.

Fahrenheit 451 is anti-war too. If we aspire to nothing else in life but sitting in front of four-way screens for entertainment and shallow kicks, we deserve nothing more than collective destruction. We won’t see it coming or care when the world disappears in a flash because we deserve no better. Like ants waiting to be washed down the drain.

Funny story: I bought Fahrenheit 451 from and then, some weeks later, discovered it was translated into Portuguese. The book title is spelt the same in both languages.

I’m still rattling my brain at Ray Bradbury’s overall message. Are we social or antisocial? Does it matter? It's got nothing to do with who you talk (or don't talk) to or the subject matter we discuss, but our refusal to accept uninteresting and mundane affairs as the norm, such as vapid shows on TV, pointless trends or feeds, or stupid reviews! Instead, we should concentrate on things that connect us to the world instead of being conformist like everyone else. Maybe stir things up a little. Cause a riot. It's a strong message just to be yourself and less headless chicken-esque.

I picked up more encouragement and enlightenment in 40 pages of this book than a year of absorbing commercially driven internet like a plankton-filtering whale. Imagine living in a society where books are outlawed, where education is designated by proxy, where being yourself is out of the question. Where you go to work, or stay at home to enmesh in (a 1950s future vision) of social media and networking. Cohabitating in marriages but unable to properly communicate, learning to merely tolerate each other, and falsely pretending to care for colleagues and neighbours. Where the only remaining option is to burn the evidence to keep the population under control. To stop us thinking. To eradicate the world of the great historical writers, where not even the Bible is allowed to exist. The unnerving perception of dysfunctional relationships, hiding from the past and who we are, burying ourselves 24/7 in mobile dross and videogames. Like a new wave of invisible Nazi Germany.

There's something about the distracted dialogue that won't appeal to everyone, especially at how disconnected and abstract the text is, often feeling like a strangely mutated dreamworld where relevant events pop back into focus to remind you there's still a story hidden away somewhere. Fahrenheit 451 has an important message to get across though. Imagine a world where there are no digital copies or backups of books and, if those books were destroyed, that would be it, no Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Dickens, nothing but today and our social media feeds? Think of your favourite novel and imagine never having access to it again! The death of all literature. No anchor points, no reference, just death of the world, regeneration, to start all over gain. That's how strong the message is, to get some serious literature under your belt and pass it on to others.

What makes books so amazing in general? It's easier to play God and close the book you’re reading at any moment in time, therefore remaining in control of your life, unlike TV that sucks your life away whether you agree to it or not!

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