Fahrenheit 451 is the label worn by the firemen on their uniforms and is the temperature at which books burn. We live in a dystopia, where reading and books are banned. Montag is a fireman and it is his job, with the aid of hypodermic needle carrying mechanical hounds, to seek out and destroy all books. He starts to question his mission and reality after encountering the seventeen year old Clarisse, a fresh-faced neighbour who has a more open outlook on life than Montag’s wife, Mildred, who, addicted to sleeping tablets, lives in a television haze, surrounded by four walls of deafening brainwash and who likes nothing more than to gossip with her friends and who manages to lose the love of her husband who is undergoing an awakening. Captain Beatty, Montag’s boss, gets suspicious when Montag calls in sick and pretty soon the firemen are calling at Montag’s house where he has hidden a cache of dissident reading material. Montag escapes and goes on the run, with the help of his only friend Faber, who has supplied him with a listening device and who is awaiting the revolution. Evading capture, Montag disappears into the countryside, only to watch the last war eradicate his former city home in a nuclear explosion, as he sets off into an existence, away from the state and where the book knowledge is kept alive. A decent book, akin to 1984 and Brave New World, the author, Ray Bradbury, explores many of the issues that damage our modern society.
This science-fiction classic was written in 1920s Russia and was cited by George Orwell as a key inspiration for his seminal 1984. We are in the 26th century and following victory in a 200 year war, society has reached its apogee in a walled off universal nation called OneState. All submit to the will of the Benefactor and individuality has essentially been erased. The people have no names and are instead assigned numbers. They live in transparent apartment blocks and have a rigorous timetable for every daily activity, including sex. We see the novel through the eyes of D-503, the number in charge of the building of the INTEGRAL, a spaceship that will advance this technology-rich society even further. O-90 is a female who regularly produces pink tickets for intimate sessions with our protagonist D-503 and all is sailing smoothly until the entrance of I-330, a new woman who begins to spread an ‘illness’ to D-503 as her ancient ideas cause an awakening of his soul. Ever evading the careful monitoring of the guardians, D-503 and I-330 embark on a romantic adventure of nostalgia, setting up discreet meetings in the Ancient House where eventually I-330 reveals her liaisons with survivors beyond the wall who live in nature. They want to hijack the INTEGRAL and eventually lead OneState into a revolution, just as the masses are being exposed to the latest innovation from the Benefactor, X-Ray brains surgery to annihilate the population’s imagination and to create perfect happiness. Zamyatin writes fluently and I found myself rapidly burning through the pages of a story that bears signs of 1984 and Brave New World yet on the whole I feel, is a slightly more romantic tale, less political and the beauty of the writing is that the imagery and ideas are florid in the reader’s imagination. It is a journey, a battle of logic and a futuristic adventure where the dystopia resembles much of our 21st century life almost a hundred years after the author first penned the words. A great, unmissable book, five stars.