Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
249 pages / Speculative Fiction / 4 out of 5 stars
As a literature major and an English teacher, I have a secret list of books that I am ashamed and embarrassed to admit (even though I probably won’t, unless someone metaphorically twists my proverbial arm, actually admit) I haven’t read. Fahrenheit 451 isn’t on that list (anymore).
As a teenager, I got really into cautionary speculative fiction. I read 1984 when I was fourteen and followed it up quickly with Animal Farm and Brave New World . Suddenly I was seeing propaganda and thought manipulation everywhere. But I never made it to reading Fahrenheit 451 until now.
I enjoyed the book, probably more than I would have as a teenager. Even though I like Bradbury, I get a little annoyed by his voice sometimes, and I wish the characters were rounded out a bit more. Otherwise, I don’t have any real complaints. I like the way Bradbury sets up his future world by dropping a few well-placed details here and there, without beating the reader to death with lengthy description. I like the way Montag is so intrigued and affected by Clarisse without quite being able to put his finger on the reason why. I especially love the way Captain Beatty looms as an almost otherworldly presence and threat throughout the book. His poise, detachment, and ruthlessness leave me wanting to compare him to an embryonic Judge Holden from Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West , aware of the absurdity and amorality of his role in the story, but nonetheless happy to fill it.
In addition to enjoying the story itself, the 60th Anniversary Edition had a few perks. The introduction by Neil Gaiman was a worthwhile read on the context of Fahrenheit 451 as well as an insightful examination of the reasons for writing and reading speculative fiction. There was a lot of great information following the story about the creative process Bradbury went through as he was writing it. A little less captivating were the critical reviews of the book, both from when it was written and years later. Even when the reviewers were authors I’ve read, like Harold Bloom and Margaret Atwood, there still wasn’t much to shed any new light on the book or its history.