|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Published: 1953 (my copy is the 50th anniversary edition pictured above)
Pages: 190 (with Afterword, Coda, and a Q&A)
Start Date: Mar. 13, 2011
Finished Date: Mar. 15, 2011 (3 days)
Where Found: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: On my TBR list
Read for: What's in a Name 4 Challenge- Book With a Number (3/6)
Summary: In a future America where books are illegal to read, a fireman responsible for burning any books found is influenced by a precocious young girl to resist what he has always known and escape the monotony of his life.
I never thought I would find a writer who can create more suspense than Stephen King. And in so few words! Ray Bradbury creates a terrifying, almost believable future in which people are discouraged from venturing outdoors, are entertained through wall-to-wall TVs in which they become part of the repetitious, soap opera-type shows, and are forbidden from reading books. The anti-hero protagonist, Guy Montag, is getting pretty sick and tired of this life, despite stepping into the footsteps of his father and grandfather before him as a firefighter, who in a bizarre reversal, does not put out fires, but starts them on books some resistors have kept hidden.
Bradbury's style is vintage science fiction: choppy sentences that should be read quickly, action slowly building from the beginning to a frenetic pace by midway and coasting to the end, and mechanical technologies only vaguely recognizable at the original time of printing, but much more conceivable now. People watch TV on wall-sized screens, listen to music and converse via tiny "seashell" earbuds, and are highly desensitized to human emotion, escaping through TV shows with paper-thin plots and vague characters. You feel Guy's pain from beginning to end, wanting to give his doped-up wife, Mildred, a firm shake by the shoulders, and sic the Mechanical Hound, a grotesque watchdog who euthanizes "criminals" that fight against authority, on Beatty, the head fireman whose past is sympathetic, but his actions are unjustifiable.
The 50th anniversary edition comes with an interesting afterword written by Bradbury with fascinating anecdotes about the book (for example, did you know that the characters Montag and Beatty are named after brands of paper and pencil [respectively] and that Bradbury wrote the novel on a pay typewriter that charged a dime per half hour?). Bradbury also reflects on the stage and film adaptations of the book (both pleasing to the author) and a subsequent scene that he contemplated adding to the book's later editions in which Beatty's motives are further represented. This is followed by a fiercely written Coda that criticizes backstabbing editors who censored Bradbury's numerous works for the purposes of pleasing particular social groups, which makes one feel a tad uncomfortable at first (some may find comments borderline racist), but has a point nonetheless about artists: no one can fully please everyone and no one's work should be "edited" in an attempt to do so. The book ends with a 50th anniversary Q&A between Bradbury (now 90) and Ballantine Books, the publishers of this edition, with a contemporary slant, including comments on how the book can be compared to today's digital age and its envitable comparison to other sci-fi classics, such as George Orwell's 1984.
If you are a book lover, you must read this book, which will no doubt terrify you, but make you even more grateful for the freedoms of expression, thought, and literacy that we all share.
Rank: (A+)- Outstanding, A Must-Read!