Turn Up the Heat with Fahrenheit 451

            Fahrenheit 451 is a thrilling dystopian fiction novel written by Ray Bradbury. The book takes place in a futuristic city controlled by a totalitarian government that sends “firemen” to burn censored books—ironically, not to put out fires, but rather to start them. Fahrenheit 451 has curious parallelisms to today’s society. Remarkably, it even includes accurate predictions for future technology that have come to fruition.

            The plot reveals itself as Guy Montag, a fireman, meets Clarisse McCellan, a woman who tells him about an intriguing past—a time when books weren’t burned and people were free and safe. The rising action continues when Guy’s wife, Mildred, overdoses on pills and is sent to the hospital where the doctors save her from near death. Then, Clarisse goes missing when Montag is expecting to meet her again.

            Things take an intriguing turn when Montag is called at work to burn books. But he secretly smuggles a book rather than burning it. The next day, Montag skips work and fakes being sick because he doesn’t want to burn books anymore. His boss, Captain Beatty comes to his house and starts talking about how wicked books are. It seems to me that Beatty was even dropping hints that he knew Montag was hiding books because Captain Beatty is clearly suspicious. Afterwards, Montag visits the house of Professor Faber, whom he met a long time ago, to get advice. Together Faber and Montag devise a plan: Montag will put censored books in firefighter’s homes, and Faber will get someone to print and duplicate books. Montag goes back to work pretending to act normal, but he secretly has an earpiece that Faber uses to talk to him and tell him what to do.

            Montag is shocked when he is then called to burn his own house and discovers that his wife betrayed him. Beatty puts him under arrest, destroys the earpiece, and plans to hunt down Faber. Montag burns Beatty to death with a flamethrower and escapes to Faber’s house. On the TV, the police and the Mechanical Hound, a robotic dog-like creature, are trying to find and hunt down and kill Montag. After they spray the room with perfume so the Mechanical Hound can’t smell Montag, Montag runs through the streets and reaches a river, which makes the Mechanical Hound confused and unable to track his scent. Montag escapes to a place by the railroad tracks where he meets former authors, Harvard professors and other book aficionados. They show him on the TV that the Mechanical Hound actually lost Montag. But rather than admitting on TV that they lost him, then instead let the Mechanical Hound hunt down and kill a random passerby, who the broadcasters call “Montag,” even though Montag is alive and hidden. The falling action continues with bombs raining down on the entire city and Mildred dying. The book concludes with Montag and the other survivors trying to find other survivors and rebuild civilization.

            What I found interesting was how Ray Bradbury’s version of the future included flat-screen televisions and earbuds—a prediction that most certainly came true. Also, the theme of censorship found in Fahrenheit 451 applies to today’s society, speaking of how schools choose what books students have to read, and how it’s hard to find unbiased news channels and networks. I also found it interesting and quite unsettling to read about this fictional government that would rather bomb cities and kill innocent people rather than admit they couldn’t find someone they were looking for, as occurred at the end of the book when the Mechanical Hound killed an innocent person. The government also says they burn books to make people happy, yet they kill blameless people which is certainly not going to make anyone happy. The irony of this was deeply disturbing.

            A major drawback to the book was that the language felt very cumbersome to me, and I lost interest from time to time. The adventure of the plot pulled me through, but when the author would then get excessively wordy, I felt myself getting distracted as the plot itself drifted. I also didn’t like how all the main female characters died helplessly, and all the firemen and people in leadership positions were men. It seemed dated and sexist, but considering the time in which it was written, I suppose that is to be expected.

            However, overall, I enjoyed this book because it was filled with thrills, excitement, and adventure. I highly recommend this book for young adults and adults who are fans of dystopian futuristic movies and books. Despite some minor issues that made it less than a five-star book to me, I think Fahrenheit 451 is a must-read.

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