Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Farenheit 451

The best books can always transcend their limitations and really speak to future generations. That's certainly true of Ray Bradbury's classic Farenheit 451. I was on the hunt for classic sci-fi and/or fantasy this afternoon at my local library when I stumbled across a copy. I had heard of the book before but never read it. And once again, I devoured a book in an afternoon. I'd like to think that Bradbury would approve.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Guy Montag is a fireman. Only he doesn't put out fires. Instead, he starts them. In this future world that Bradbury has constructed, it's illegal to read books. If you're caught with them, the firemen come and burn them ... along with your house. Guy doesn't really think about what he's doing until he meets a teenage girl named Clarisse. She starts opening his mind to the world around him by asking some seemingly innocent questions. But soon Guy is taking a good hard look at the world around him and he's not liking what he sees. He wants more.

Not all of Bradbury's ideas translate that well into the modern age. Some of his depictions seem a bit quaint (for example, Montag at one point declares that the U.S. has won two atomic wars since 1990). And yet a lot of what he depicted is coming true. Montag's world is one of rampant consumerism and materialism. Montag's wife, their friends and neighbors, they're all plugged into watching "televisor" screens that take up entire walls. There's no real new thought, no appreciate for the classics. Keep the people entertained and whatever you do, don't let them think for themselves! It's frightening how close to modern society Bradbury hits.

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