Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451

The Illustrated Man was my previous experience of Ray Bradbury: beautiful and disturbing post-war sci-fi stories, set in our present.

Fahrenheit 451 is clearly, from the author’s various prefaces and the publisher’s blurb, a much more famous work, probably because of its theme of book-burning: it’s the lesser-known companion to Brave New World and 1984.

As with his other stories, there’s a superficial lightness of touch, a simplicity, which makes you think at first that his tales will be inconsequential. But they’re not: his hero Montag’s crisis as he begins to doubt the rightness of his career (burning books), and his distant but affectionate relationship with his tragic wife Mildred, are clearly and straightforwardly related, as are the book’s final scenes when he joins a group of dissidents in the countryside, watches his city destroyed in a bombing raid (with an incredible slow-motion description of one bomb’s effects), and joins his friends’ final mission to keep book culture alive. A strange book.

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