“There must be something in books, things we can't imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don't stay for nothing.”
Guy Montag is a fireman. He burns books for a living, protecting society from the evils of the written page. The only problem is Guy isn’t sure what exactly he’s protecting everyone from. You see, he’s never read any of the books he burns. That is until one night when raids a house he expects to be empty. Instead he finds a woman who refuses to leave despite the threat of fire as Montag prepares to burn the house with its illegal material. As he lights the kerosene he spots a book that’s fallen open to the passage “time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine”. The incident disturbs him. What follows opens his eyes to a world under constant threat of destruction.
This book has become one of my favourites as Bradbury provides an example of what a dystopian world without books would look like. While fast and flashy it lacks inspiration and fragility. There is a lifeless numb feeling to everyone’s lives except those who secret books within their homes. And Bradbury communicates this as only a poet could. His diction is lyrical and though provoking. I actually checked to see if he’d published any poetry and he’s done everything but.
The story itself is somewhat like the Matrix movies in that what Montag has been told to believe is not the truth. We also encounter several other characters such as his wife, Mildred who wants bigger and better gadgets to cement their social status; Clarisse who is a mysterious neighbour who questions the authorities and Captain Beatty, the fire chief and Montag’s boss who eventually grows suspicious of Montag.
My one complaint would be that the book wasn’t longer and closer to the end began to lose the lyrical quality that had drawn me in at the beginning. Despite these issues though it’s still an amazing book and made me want to read more of Bradbury’s work. If you’re looking for a dystopian novel with a great story read this!