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Beth Meacham, David Brin

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury Whenever new readers of science fiction ask for book recommendations they often include one proviso that the books recommended should not be older than 20 years. This constraint is a crying shame, while there are many great scifi books that written since the 80s, in my estimation the very best scifi of all time were written prior to the 70s, and these books generally stand the test of time. Some readers are put off by old sf books because the science or technology portrayed in these books did not come to pass or just turned out to be plain wrong. I do not think it is the job of science fiction to predict the future, I think the whole point is to speculate about possible futures. For me the "thought experiments" are the real joy of reading science fiction.

Fahrenheit 451 was first published in 1953, how is that for old? Yet the themes it tackles remain relevant today. Even though Bradbury never set out to "predict" future technology, this book is surprisingly prescient in the tech department: portable audio players, enormous flat screen TVs, electronic surveillance, and ATM machines are all mentioned here. That said Bradbury was always been more interested in how technology affect people. It is often said that Fahrenheit 451 is about censorship but the author refuted this when he talked about this book (see Wikipedia entry). He was more interested in how technology, particularly television and radio, can turn people into mindless, self centered individuals.
“I plunk the children in school nine days out of ten. I put up with them when they come home three days a month; it's not bad at all. You heave them into the 'parlour' and turn the switch. It's like washing clothes; stuff laundry in and slam the lid.” Mrs. Bowles tittered. “They'd just as soon kick as kiss me. Thank God, I can kick back! “ The women showed their tongues, laughing.

That little quote sums the theme up nicely. I doubt Bradbury in his 90s was at all happy about the prevalence of reality TV shows and Facebook. As for censorship I would say it is one of the themes but not the overriding one by any means.

As is the norm for Bradbury the prose style of this book is lyrical without ever being inaccessible, with that wonderfully unique Bradbury rhythm, it seems to be more metaphor-laden than his other works that I have read though. The characters do not seem to be as vivid as those found in [b:Something Wicked This Way Comes|248596|Something Wicked This Way Comes (Green Town, #2)|Ray Bradbury|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1409596011s/248596.jpg|1183550] and [b:The Martian Chronicles|76778|The Martian Chronicles|Ray Bradbury|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1374049948s/76778.jpg|4636013]. The protagonist Guy Montag is sympathetic but he seems to be somewhat aloof to me. More interesting is Captain Beatty, the main antagonist (if I can call him that), considering his anti-books stance he is very well read, intelligent, and enigmatic. He reminds me of the smooth talking villains of the other well known dystopian books, O'Brien from [b:1984|5470|1984|George Orwell|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348990566s/5470.jpg|153313] and Mustapha Mond from [b:Brave New World|5129|Brave New World|Aldous Huxley|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327865608s/5129.jpg|3204877]. The major difference is Beatty is not really a bad guy.

An important and highly readable book, I do not love it as much as [b:Something Wicked This Way Comes|248596|Something Wicked This Way Comes (Green Town, #2)|Ray Bradbury|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1409596011s/248596.jpg|1183550] and [b:The Martian Chronicles|76778|The Martian Chronicles|Ray Bradbury|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1374049948s/76778.jpg|4636013], but rating it below five stars would seem a bit ridiculous to me.