Book Review: Fahrenheit 451

‘See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories…’

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I first came across Fahrenheit 451 as part of an English lesson that I was delivering to a group of nonplussed teenagers. The highlight for them was undoubtedly the moment when the real life fire alarm went off and they all got to stand outside in the sunshine for a bit. I was intrigued though. I had heard of both Fahrenheit 451 and Ray Bradbury but only on a very surface level. That lesson only featured the first page of Bradbury’s seminal, dystopian novel but it was enough to make me want to read more…

Guy Montag is a fireman. He lives in a world in which the job of ‘fireman’ is to break into people’s houses and burn anything that distracts from the terrifying talking walls – in the form of huge television screens – that excrete nefarious, whispered conversations in order to keep people happy and consuming. When an inquisitive small child breaks Montag’s insidious hypnosis, he sets in motion a chain of events that will have earth shattering consequences for both himself and the city in which he lives.

The lazy comparison to make with Fahrenheit 451 would be the similarly numerically titled 1984, and while there are certain tropes common to both, it is Huxley’s Brave New World that looms the largest as a clear influence. In that book, the population has been tricked into thinking that they are living in a wonderful utopia when actually they are just as trapped and miserable as ever. Fahrenheit 451 is based around a similar conceit although the whole thing feels just that little more strange and unnerving.

Fahrenheit 451 is a page turner despite it’s odd anti-hero and bizarre supporting cast of characters. Dystopian fiction is my favourite kind of fiction and Ray Bradbury is a bit of a legend of the genre. If you liked some of the aforementioned books, and also more modern stuff like The Handmaid’s Tale and The Hunger Games, then you should make Fahrenheit 451 a priority.

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