Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury Guy Montag is a fireman. His night job is to respond to calls and burn down homes with books. He's going along in his life pretty hunky-dory until he meets Clarisse, his quirky neighbor, who abruptly jolts him out of his hum-drum life (and wife who is addicted to an interactive TV family and overdoses on sleeping pills).

In my endeavor to read a classic book a month, I chose this short book, a classic scifi/dystopian work. With all the dystopian books coming out after the success of "The Hunger Games", it's nice to go back to the roots and see the foundations of this genre. (And read some decent dystopians that aren't fluffed with stupid romances.)

Unlike [b:1984|5470|1984|George Orwell|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348990566s/5470.jpg|153313] or [b:Brave New World|5129|Brave New World|Aldous Huxley|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327865608s/5129.jpg|3204877], this book has a distinct writing style. Bradbury's work is much more poetic and flowery than either Huxley's or Orwell's. At first, this was jarring and annoying - not unlike my reaction to the Tahereh Mafi's fairly recent release, and romance masquerading as dystopian fiction, [b:Shatter Me|10429045|Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)|Tahereh Mafi|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1310649047s/10429045.jpg|15333458]. (At least now I kinda understand where Mafi may have taken inspiration for her story from.) There were points when I nearly quit this book because the metaphors bounded off into the sunset with Tonto and his 8 flying reindeer (that is my sad attempt at a ridiculous metaphor, sorry). But after awhile, the language grew on me; it actually seemed to have a point, to showcase Montag's erratic mindset and do more than go, "Oooooh, look at these two kids, they are so in luuuuuuurve!"

Also unlike a lot of other dystopian relatives, "Fahrenheit 451"'s dystopian society doesn't arise from a tyrannical government. Instead, it comes from people censoring each other (the coda makes it clear that this was a concern very close to Bradbury's heart). It wasn't some wizard behind a curtain; it was society itself.

In this day and age, when groups actively try to ban books like this one (talk about the height of irony!) from school reading lists or libraries, the message rings loud and clear. I'm not saying I believe all censorship is necessarily bad; I do believe that 12 year olds shouldn't be reading books like "Fifty Shades of Grey" nor do I think that 7 year olds should be watching rated R films. And people who don't want to listen to music with explicit lyrics or movies with violence and sex can by all means censor themselves - that is their prerogative and I would never want to force a person to do something they didn't feel comfortable with. But whenever you start censoring, you have got to wonder: where is the line? Who gets to draw it? What should be censored and what shouldn't be and who owns the knowledge?

The other portion of the novel that stood out to me was how the people in this world, such as Mildred, Guy's wife, substituted the knowledge you get from books and thoughtful conversations with other people with the vapidity of TV families and mass entertainment. I think you can see where I am going with this; our society has made some people millions for being idiots or doing stupid things. Charlie Sheen, Kim Kardashian, and Snooki all come to mind. They aren't famous and wealthy because of their shrewd business acumen or a discovery of a cure for cancer or their dedication to the fight for equal rights. No, they became famous and household names because they acted like idiots, and we could laugh at them, pretending we were better than they are.

The character that I found the most interesting was Fire Chief Beatty. Here is a guy that is obviously well read, and yet he has no problems burning books. How does a guy get to that place? What scarred him? Bradbury, in the afterword, hints at Beatty's story, but I almost wish for more.

As fascinated as I was with Beatty, I found myself largely disinterested in the rest of the cast. We have the male protagonist who learns the truth and forges his own path (surprisingly, Guy acts far more human and cowardly than I would have expected a male character to have been written in this time period), the young woman who incites the rebellion, the woman who tries to hold him back, the male mentor that tells him to rebel, the other male figure that tells him to obey, etc. It's all pretty standard stuff.

Honestly, this book is more remarkable for the thought provoking discussion points than the actual characters, conversations, or plot. I thought the situations the book addresses - media, the place books have in our lives, and censorship - are more meaningful now than ever. So if you get a chance, give this book a read - and I would heartily recommend finding a person or two to read with you so you can talk about some of the topics this book presents.