Erm... wow! This book blew me away and I could barely put it down! The story is highly suspenseful and thrilling and I completely connected with its writing and themes. Bradbury's prose is absolutely wonderful and full of beautiful metaphors and phrases. At times the writing goes into stream-of-consciousness (which isn't something that I usually like at all) but Bradbury manages to write it very, very well and is one of the few authors that I've come across who's been able to make it work for me.
After reading a few articles about this book I've learnt that the majority of its readers have interpreted the story as an attack on the evils of government censorship whereas Bradbury insisted that it was more of a warning about the possibility of television destroying an interest in reading. However, even though Bradbury might not have consciously intended for censorship to be the main theme of his book I think that it's a completely valid message to take from the story. In his afterword for the book's 50th anniversary Bradbury mentions his main inspirations for the story and almost all of these things happen to be examples of censorship. His main inspirations were the Nazi book burnings, the Stalinist "Great Purge", the ruined library of Alexandria and the Salem Witch Trials. Curiously the Salem Witch Trials were also the major source of inspiration for Arthur Miller's The Crucible which is one of my absolute favourite plays. The fact that Miller wrote The Crucible at roughly the same time that Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 is something that I find extremely interesting!
Not only does Bradbury manage to predict earphones, reality television, giant flat-screen TVs, 24 hour cash machines and biometrics in Fahrenheit 451 but for me the most eerie and chilling thing about the entire book was how its dystopia managed to come about. I'm still quite new to the dystopian genre but I do know that the majority of dystopian societies are the result of evil, totalitarian governments or powerful private corporations. But in Fahrenheit 451 it's society itself that's to blame for the dystopia! One of the reasons why books were eventually banned was because people gradually began to find offensive things in them. How incredibly scary and relevant is that in our age of social media outrage?! It seems to me that far too people in our society will respond to things that they find offensive by either hurling personal abuse (which is incredibly unkind and unhelpful) or calling for them to be banned or boycotted, when they could simply choose to ignore the offensive things or argue against them with logic and discussion. I don't believe that we'll ever see books being destroyed by firemen in our society but the ideas in Fahrenheit 451 still hit very close to home for me.
Fahrenheit 451 is a brilliant book and I would recommend it to anyone who loves sci-fi or dystopias or classic literature in general. It's a very short book that could be easily finished in just a couple of hours but it's still a hugely thought-provoking and powerful read. Although the story is at times extremely bleak the ending is surprisingly optimistic and hopeful. The only thing that I'd really criticise about this book would be (SPOILER ALERT!).... Bradbury's casual killing off of Clarisse which even Bradbury himself later regretted, so much so that when he later adapted his own book into a play he changed the ending so that Clarisse was one of the scholars that Montag later meets in the wilderness. I really liked Clarisse and I'd have loved for her and Montag to have interacted more. It's a small complaint though!
P.S. The only screen adaptation of this book is the 1966 film by François Truffaut. I haven't got any real interest in seeing it though as the film looks extremely dated. They also left out Professor Faber and the Mechanical Hound and I find it rather bizarre that Clarisse and Mildred (called Linda in the film) were both played by the same actress. I'd love to see a new adaptation of the book though!