A review by leaton01
Fahrenheit 451, by SparkNotes, Ray Bradbury

3.0

I always grapple with this book. I've read it and taught it a few times over the years. In terms of storytelling, it's enjoyable. We follow Montag, a firefighter of the future whose role is to find and destroy written works--particular books. Of course, Montag finds some level of corruption in the system he works for and he, himself, is eventually seduced to keep a book. This simultaneously opens up a new world of consideration for him to come to understand why the world has decided that books are threats to one's mind and also puts in direct conflict with his work and a threat to those around him. So the story explores his departure from mainstream society to marginalized society with the sense that this less-road traveled is more important (which given that road is book-reading and one is actually reading a book to discover the story adds a nice meta element to the story).

While the book does have one of the finest first sentences to start a novel ("It was a pleasure to burn."), it's politics feels a bit heavy-handed and like much of Bradbury's work--a bit too nostalgic for the past while also maintaining an uncritical technopanic frame about the future of society and technology (not that being critical of technology isn't important, but much of his feels lazy rather than thoughtful). Pitting televisual media (TVs and movies) against the book feels flat philosophically as much as it did when Socrates told us to beware of writing is a technology that could threaten the truth and reality of his time. Even now, while people look to the book and say, "See that's what happening now"--they seem to inherently forget that disinformation and misinformation that causes many modern ills are the result of reading and writing a lot; so the idea that knowledge in books will be burned away or deleted feels less realistic a hook than the idea that it would be drowned out. While it's a fun book to read, if looking knowledge dystopia, Brave New World and 1984 do it much more powerfully.