Posts Tagged With: science fiction

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Synopsis from B&N:
Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires…

The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning…along with the houses in which they were hidden.

Guy Montag enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames…never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid.

Then he met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think…and Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do!

My thoughts:

I can’t believe I’d never read this novel before. It’s odd to think of all the English classes I’ve taken, and realize that no professor ever thought this would be worthwhile to teach. I’m sure lots of them assumed it had been read before – but that certainly didn’t stop them from making me read Huckleberry Finn 5 times! (But that’s another story…)

There is so much to consider in this short little novel – Bradbury really packed a lot into a small package. His writing style is full of simile and metaphor, which sometimes seem a little over-the-top, but they give the narrative a feeling almost like a dream. It is very visual, giving the reader detail after minute detail in which to see the drama unfolding. When Montag goes to a house to burn books one night, “Books bombarded his shoulders, his arms, his upturned face. A book lit, almost obediently, like a white pigeon, in his hands, wings fluttering. In the dim, wavering light, a page hung open and it was like a snowy feather, the words delicately painted thereon.”

Guy Montag is the focus of the book, and as such the only character who really gets a chance to develop. Mildred, Guy’s wife; Clarisse, Guy’s neighbor; Faber, the professor – we meet each of these people, but never get the opportunity to find out much about them. They are merely catalysts, propelling Guy forward on his journey. Each has their small part to play, and then they are gone, because the author is mostly only interested in Guy.

It is fascinating to read Bradbury’s vision of a world gone mad, written in the 1950s, and realize how similar it is to the world we live in today. In his world, people don’t want to read books, or be challenged by new ideas – they would rather sit in front of their gigantic television sets and be entertained. In his world, no one wants to stand out or be different, but would rather conform to the image that the majority has decided is ideal. In his world, people don’t connect with each other, but spend their time blocking out the world with the earphones in their ears. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? I have to wonder if Bradbury ever feels chilled by his prophetic vision.

Of course, what resonates most clearly with me is the few people in the novel who are trying to save the books. When Montag decides, for the first time, to sit down and read one of the books he has been secretly stashing away, his life is forever changed, and that is truly the moment of triumph in the novel. When he finds Professor Faber, and later the band of men in the forest (Bradbury has referred to them as the Book People), and decides he wants to do something – anything – to keep the books from being lost, it is the flash of hope that lifts the novel from despair.

And Bradbury knows it is not the books themselves that are important. Books are little more than ink and paper, which don’t add up to very much. “It’s not the books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books…Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”

The only part of the novel that really disappointed me was Montag’s meeting with the Book People. They are a group, scattered throughout the land, that are trying to keep the ideas of books alive. Instead of trying to save the books themselves, however – which would be really dangerous – they choose to “become” a book. They memorize the book, word by word, and tell each other the stories. Eventually, they will pass their knowledge on to the next generation. Their great hope is that one day, they will once again be able to commit what they remember to paper, and the books will be born again. I just wanted MORE of this section – I was fascinated by it, and wish his time with the Book People would have lasted longer.

Fahrenheit 451 is quite a magnificent novel. I have no doubt it is one I will be reading again and again.

Finished: 2/27/09

Source: Franklin Avenue Library

Rating: 8/10

Reviewed by: Elizabeth

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Til Human Voices Wake Us by Mark Budz

“We don’t want to be human anymore. Human voices woke us, but that’s not who we are. We want to forget we were human. We want to wake up to our own future. Not drown in the past.”

From Booklist:

In three different eras, three protagonists struggle with the spectre of death and grasp for a means to survival. During the Depression, an architect communes with mystics for the key to healing. In the near future, a traveller who believes he has found the answer with Jesus broadcasts his story from a church van. Far in the future, a post-human space explorer who has lost vital parts of his programming because of an accident fights to maintain coherence. Each character struggles for truth and life, their fates becoming more closely linked with every passing moment. Discovering the truth behind their fates and choosing the right set of memories constitute the only path to survival for all three. Budz’s fascinating thriller made up of three disparate stories crucially connected and eventually converging on a conclusion perhaps not entirely unexpected satisfies through the exploration of mind and choice that is its mainspring.

I checked this out of the library based on a recommendation from someone (as an aside, I really need to start writing down the source for all these recs….), and am glad I did. This is good science fiction, folks. The three characters introduced separately as the book begins are each interesting in themselves, but as the book progresses and the connections between the three start to become apparent, it really gets fascinating. Because it takes a little while to get into each character’s story, the first part of the book is a little slow-going, but even then I didn’t ever consider ditching it. The exploration of the different facets of personality, and how we chose to hide or express them, was quite interesting. I enjoyed this one – thanks to whomever told me to pick this up!

Rating: 8/10

Reviewed by: Elizabeth

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A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin


Date of Publication: 1968

Number of Pages: 183

Synopsis (from back cover): Ged was the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, but once he was called Sparrowhawk, a reckless youth, hungry for power and knowledge, who tampered with long-held secrets and loosed and terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.

Review: I am not a fan of fantasy or science fiction. I am, however, an enthusiastic fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, and especially The Lord of the Rings. I knew that the Earthsea saga was supposed to be similar, and it is, but happily, it is also very different. The entire population of the world lives on small islands that make up the Archipelago of Earthsea, and wizards are common, if revered, laborers. Each village, township, or great city employs one, and they are all educated on one enchanted island, Roke. Fishermen depend on wizards to help calm the weather and the sea, and even the very fish themselves. Wizards are healers and magicians. And Ged is both the most powerful and talented, and also the most prideful and, therefore, the most cursed of these wizards.

This story follows Ged’s early life, from his birth and childhood on the Gont, where is father was a smith and his aunt a petty village witch who taught him his first spells, to his education at the great wizard school on Roke, and to his great mistake of pride and his journey toward rectifying it. In a way, it is very much like The Lord of the Rings, if it had been told from Gandalf’s point of view: a powerful wizard wanders the earth, doing great things to help people, but always in pursuit of some dark mission. In another way, it reminded me of Homer’s Odyssey, in that Ged is constantly sidelined by manipulative and dark forces. All of these likenesses in fact add to the enjoyment I had in the story. Ged is a wonderfully complex hero; he is not wholly good and makes terrible mistakes that endanger the entire world. He gives in to pride, anger, and envy, and this causes his early downfall, but it also makes him a better person. The people around him either help him or hinder him, but this doesn’t make them one-dimensional. In fact, I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, The Tombs of Atuan not just to read more about Ged, but also about his friends, Vetch, Yarrow, and Ogion, and also about his nemesis, Jasper. I recommend this book to any fan of Tolkien or C.S. Lewis…to well-read fans of fantasy and science fiction, this book will already be a favorite.

Rating: 9/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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