Since the late 1940s, Ray Bradbury has been revered for his works of science fiction and fantasy. With more than five million copies in print, Fahrenheit 451—originally published in 1953—remains his most acclaimed work.
Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which book paper burns. Fahrenheit 451 is a novel set in the (perhaps near) future when “firemen” burn books forbidden by a totalitarian “brave new world” regime. The hero, according to Mr. Bradbury, is “a book burner who suddenly discovers that books are flesh-and-blood ideas and cry out silently when put to the torch.” Today, when libraries and schools in this country and all over the world are still “burning” certain books, Fahrenheit 451 remains a brilliantly readable and suspenseful work of even greater impact and timeliness.
In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s classic, frightening vision of the future, firemen don’t put out fires—they start them in order to burn books. Bradbury’s vividly painted society holds up the appearance of happiness as the highest goal—a place where trivial information is good, and knowledge and ideas are bad. Fire Captain Beatty explains it this way, “Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs…. Don’t give them slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.”
Guy Montag is a book-burning fireman undergoing a crisis of faith. His wife spends all day with her television “family,” imploring Montag to work harder so that they can afford a fourth TV wall. Their dull, empty life sharply contrasts with that of his next-door neighbor Clarisse, a young girl thrilled by the ideas in books, and more interested in what she can see in the world around her than in the mindless chatter of the tube. When Clarisse disappears mysteriously, Montag is moved to make some changes, and starts hiding books in his home. Eventually, his wife turns him in, and he must answer the call to burn his secret cache of books. After fleeing to avoid arrest, Montag winds up joining an outlaw band of scholars who keep the contents of books in their heads, waiting for the time society will once again need the wisdom of literature.
Bradbury—the author of more than 500 short stories, novels, plays, and poems, including The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man—is the winner of many awards, including the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America. Readers ages 13 to 93 will be swept up in the harrowing suspense of Fahrenheit 451, and no doubt will join the hordes of Bradbury fans worldwide. —Neil Roseman
Barnes and Noble
Fahrenheit 451 is set in a grim alternate-future setting ruled by a tyrannical government in which firemen as we understand them no longer exist: Here, firemen don’t douse fires, they ignite them. And they do this specifically in homes that house the most evil of evils: books.
Books are illegal in Bradbury’s world, but books are not what his fictional—yet extremely plausible—government fears: They fear the knowledge one pulls from books. Through the government’s incessant preaching, the inhabitants of this place have come to loathe books and fear those who keep and attempt to read them. They see such people as eccentric, dangerous, and threatening to the tranquility of their state.
But one day a fireman named Montag meets a young girl who demonstrates to him the beauty of books, of knowledge, of conceiving and sharing ideas; she wakes him up, changing his life forever. When Montag’s previously held ideology comes crashing down around him, he is forced to reconsider the meaning of his existence and the part he plays. After Montag discovers that “all isn’t well with the world,” he sets out to make things right.
A brilliant and frightening novel, Fahrenheit 451 is the classic narrative about censorship; utterly chilling in its implications, Ray Bradbury’s masterwork captivates thousands of new readers each year. (Andrew LeCount)