B is for BRADBURY! (as part of the a-to-z book challenge).

I need some kerosene so I can burn this book. It was so painful to read, I wanted to scream everytime I took a break from it. I didn’t have much issue with the plot, in fact, I thought it would be very interesting, but how wrong I was! Ray Bradbury created his very own fire-breathing hag. Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! And fuck off!

So, I’m sure you have a vague idea of the storyline of Fahrenheit 451. Fireman Guy Montag lives in a future where reading/owning books are banned. Instead of preventing the spread of fire, Guy and his firemen friends are the “custodians of culture”, which to Bradbury means the “destroyers of books”. Nice. However, what isn’t so nice is having to read Bradbury’s turgid, clunky, repetitive prose. When we finally get to the exciting bits (i.e. Montag’s chase sequence), you don’t care one iota if Guy dies. Bradbury persists with his laborious sentences. It’s even worse when he tried to implement a stream-of-conciousness technique to give an idea of Guy’s interior thoughts and the gravity of his situation as a subversive individual. Oh my God. If I could erase this book from my memory, I would. It just left an unpleasant taste in my mouth. I think the sign of a great book, is that the author makes you forget your reading a book as you turn the pages, immersing the reader in the world. Personally, Bradbury isn’t a great writer. Occasionally, he can write a fine sentence but that lump of gold is surrounded with coal, and you have to keep chipping away to reach it. It’s obvious this was a short story originally, and it should have been left as one. But no, Bradbury had to put a shitload of irrelevant, strained description which added nothing to the plot and didn’t illuminate the characters in any way.

As for his characters, there wasn’t much room for development. Guy, his wife Millie and next door neighbour Clarisse were ciphors. They were just tools for Bradbury to implement his message. It’s almost like I could see Ray popping his head round the door and furiously waving a banner stating: “Technology is Evil”. The insidious effects of mass media consumption and repressed individuality has lead to the formation of this world. Down with minority opinion, in with simplified TV shows! Culture has become babified for the masses. Tell me something I don’t know – Hollywood blockbusters anyone?

It’s interesting he chose the name Guy for his main character. I don’t know if he was trying to slyly allude to Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder plot. Probably. Although, he’s become a symbol for anarchist dissent, Guy was a religious conservative, I think. So, Bradbury was trying to make his Guy, the rebel-rouser. Wow. I’m in awe of your intellect, Ray. Nice going… NOT!

I recognised some interesting images which may have inspired other Science Fiction authors. The Running Man. The Reality TV show environment. The Mechanical Hound. Crazy Murderous Teens. Blah Blah. You get the idea. This book may have been influential but it’s so dated. They still use the word “swell” in everyday conversation; if you read this story, prepare to be transported back into the 1950s.

The world itself was puzzling and unrealistic. If books were banned, how the fuck were people like Guy, Captain Beatty and the woman who got burned know how to read. Surely, if this law was in place by the government over many generations (because Guy comes from a long line of firemen), wouldn’t it be a waste of time and funding teaching them to read? And wouldn’t books be involved? Guy understands the meaning of words, but how? Wouldn’t Beatty and Guy be taken in by authority as they openly speak about books and reading? All these questions are never answered.

Towards the end, Guy meets up with some academic bums on the railway tracks, who take him in, but my interest in this story had long since (to use a fire pun) burnt out.

To paraphrase Bradbury, it would be a pleasure to burn Fahrenheit 451.

Sorry, Ray, you just didn’t light my fire.

(RATING: */*****)