Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451

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Fahrenheit 451 holds a vaunted position in the dystopian SF canon for good reason. It still burns with vitality and its warnings of overweening, censorious government remain as relevant as ever.

The book tells the story of Guy Montag, a fireman whose job is to burn books and the people who own them. His wife is an empty shell of a person who inoculates herself from thinking or feeling by immersing in mind numbing entertainment and an endless supply of narcotics. He meets a young teenager in his neighborhood who displays behavior to which he is simply unaccustomed.   She exhibits curiosity about him and the world around her which is completely contrary to what is taught in schools. It prompts him to question the institution for which he works, the history he had been spoon fed, and the foundations of his marriage.

Mr. Bradbury had more foresight than some might care to admit. Between his predictions of public schools as breeding grounds for violence, the perversion of fire protection into an instrument of government censorship, a narcoticized, media obsessed culture and a government simultaneously obsessed with suppressing dissent and the vainglorious pursuit of “equality”, this bleak vision of the future remains devastatingly prescient.

Fahrenheit 451 is a shining testament to the power of ideas contained in the written word. By emphasizing the importance of active engagement with humanity and nature, knowing the difference between thinking versus the accumulation of information and the dangers of a government that thinks it knows what’s best for society, this book more than earns its essential place in the SF canon.

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