Samantha's Reviews > Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
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it was ok
Read 2 times. Last read February 12, 2019 to February 15, 2019.

Though I've long been a fan of Mr. Bradbury's short stories, I hadn't ever read this, arguably his most famous book. I'm sorry to have to say I didn't like it that much.

The ideas behind the story are familiar Bradbury territory: the dangers of reliance on technology, the de-humanization of people, the hard-won lesson, the importance of thinking for yourself. I'm a bleeding heart liberal myself, a supporter of education and considered thought, so I like the ideas. That's not the problem.

But what works in short form is not as great longer for, at least not in this case. One of the things I've always appreciated about his short stories is the unapologetic and straightforward earnestness and sincerity. Especially now, when everything seems so damn ironic and cynical all the time, impressed with its own cleverness, reading Ray Bradbury can feel like a breath of fresh air. But in this book, I found that directness came off ham-fisted. Clumsy even. No subtlety. No build.

In a longer work, I expected to delve deeper into the characters, but I didn't find it. Montag was a man who did things, but it was never clear to me why. Why did talking to Clarisse affect him so deeply? There was nothing in their conversation that sparkled enough to make me see what he apparently saw, nothing life-changing. He was taking some terrible risks, but even he didn't seem to understand his own motivations.

I understood that Millie, Montag's wife, was supposed to illustrate what a society without books and genuine interactions could do to a person, but she was so vapid as to be only a caricature. She was a sketch only, exhibit A: cautionary tale. None of the complexity that even a shallow character needs to feel real and to be emotionally affecting.

Given that the book has so few female characters (Clarisse, Millie and Millie's friends), it's sad that they are used only to illustrate a point and not explored with any depth. We don't see any civilian men painted as similarly ruined by this society, so it plays into some 1950s gender politics that just didn't age well.

There are some highly quotable lines if you're looking for that kind of thing, but they feel stilted to me in the context of the story, like the characters are merely mouthpieces for the moral of the story rather than people I can care about.

Sorry, Ray. I'm sorry this is the work people have heard of. It's not your best work.
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Reading Progress

June 25, 2009 – Shelved (Mass Market Paperback Edition)
February 12, 2019 – Started Reading
February 12, 2019 – Shelved
February 15, 2019 – Finished Reading

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