Monday, 7 July 2008

Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury

On the one hand, he did well to suggest that attention spans would degenerate and 'stories' would become more compact over time. On the other hand, I think he got it completely wrong to suggest that 'stories' would disappear and be considered dangerous. If anything, the opposite is true.
I generally don't dig sci-fi novels. They mostly offer implausible futures.

To be truthful, I didn't really get it. The robot dogs were pretty cool though.



Tiger in a Tube said...

"They mostly offer implausible futures."

Which is the point. SF has a way of satirising the human condition and social institutions life. It is one of its best characteristics, but it is rarely utilised with a light touch.

"Gulliver's Travels" set the satireness up for (much) later writers like Bradbury and Dick and Lem.

But then there is the space opera bollocks that makes you read 16 novels in a series. pffft.

Suggested reading from here to rehabilitate your dislike of SF? China Melville.

I like robot dogs too.

Perseus said...

Oh, I'm fine with totally silly sci-fi, like Doctor Who and much of Star Trek, and I'm fine with apocalyptic stuff like The Road, and fantasy sci-fi is just fine with me as well.

Where I lose interest is with books like this one and Handmaid's Tale where they try to 'warn' us about something which as far as I can see, will never ever happen, therefore the warning is irrelevant.

Gulliver's Travels was political satire, which is different again.

Bradbury's book was neither fantasy or satire or delightfully silly. He was trying to warn us about the perils of TV (fair enough) and the result of that addiction to condensation of stories (not fair enough in my mind - in fact, way off the mark).

I think this book should be lumped more in the Brave New World and 1984 basket, but it's just not in their league on matters of foresight, trends and warnings.

It is better than Handmaid's Tale though, but then again, so is eating tree sap.

Tiger in a Tube said...


Much SF is political satire and I reckon that there is a strong arguement for Gullivers Travels being a proto-SF piece. Outlandish machines, weird peoples. . .

Yeah - F 451 belongs with the dystopian BNW and 1984, but for mine, they do it better.

And I'll steer clear of Handmaid' Tale.

Perseus said...

'Dystopian' - yes, that's the word I needed.

And yes, point taken on Swift. I shouldn't be so hard on the genre. I freakin' LOVE Jules Verne, frinstance, and I love watching sci-fi movies. Sci-fi books just seem to rub me up the wrong way.

I'm in chapter 2 of a bleak French 19th century novel right now and I feel like I'm back home.

squib said...

I've gone off Swift since reading what a nasty bastard he was to poor Laetitia Pilkington

I've never read Fahrenheit, I guess because I already know what's it's about and like you said it's probably lost its relevance but sci fi rocks oh and 19th century stuff. I was thinking of ordering Quincunx - has anyone read it? It's 800 pages so I really want a strong thumbs up from someone

Perseus said...



Hmm. You've out-referenced me there Squibelius. Never 'eard of 'em. They sound like medicines.

"For your syphillis I recommend a treatment of Quincux".

squib said...

Syphillis? I bet you watched that show on ABC last night

Well I read all about Laetitia in her bio 'Queen of the Wits' which you will recall *nudgenudge* that I reviewed recently

It got me into 18-19th century sort of mood and that's when I came across Quincux which looks like a good long holiday read

Tiger in a Tube said...

@squib - get Quincux. Double plus thumbs up. I loaned my copy out and it never came back and so I'm thinking about re-ordering myself.

It's not really science-fiction though. And there are no robot dogs. It does have a math strucutre based around the number 5. When I read it, I didn't get it, but apparently understanding what happens within the chapter numbering helps you to understand the end. . . me? I just thought it was a cracking story, even though it didn't have any robot dogs.

Perseus said...

Squib: Nope, didn't watch ABC last night. I did however do four loads of washing, Jif'd the bath and dusted behind the bed-heads in all 3 bedrooms.

Squib and Tiger: Sci-fi with no robot dogs? What's the point?

squib said...

Thanks Tiger but the term 'maths structure' is now causing me some concern

Tiger in a Tube said...

Don't worry about the maths Squib. I didn't and I still loved it - when I loaned my copy, it was with that special evangelical "you *must* read this book" look one gets from time to time.

The maths thing is there if you are into it. It's kinda like how you can read Ulysess knowing that each chapter is meant to represent a body organ or some such.

It's one of my top 5 books of all time.

@perseus --> when they 're-imagined' battlestar galactica, they also dropped the ball when they didn't reimagine that Moppet robot dog pet thing. It could have been the BSG what jar jar binks was to star wars.

uh . .hang on. . maybe robot dogs are bad things after all.

squib said...

You expecting guests Persey?

Quincux isn't sci-fi at all. It's 19th century (though it was written in the 90s I think)

Tiger Amazon are practically giving them away at $US13.60. Even with postage that is cheap

squib said...

I got my copy of Quincux the other day from Amazon. It's in very small font so really it's more like 1000 pages. I'm saving it for the holidays

Melba said...

update: have started watching underbelly, bought book today, came here to re-read your review, spewed when i saw you paid $5 less at borders than i did at shop in glenhuntly road.

ps: am loving show, and scaring myself by how gleefully i am enjoying the stylised gangster thuggery [scene of them all going into magistrates court and loading up the x-ray trays springs to mind], also finding carl williams character one of the most comical i've seen in ages.

Perseus said...

Squib - I'll wait for the movie. 1,000 small print pages of sci-fi? Ew.

Melba - It's stupidly entertaining, ain't it?

squib said...

I repeat!! It's not science fiction. I made a huge segue from sci-fi to 19th century england and no, not in a Doctor Who kind of way!

It's set in 19th century england

Andy Pants said...

Kurt Vonnegut really nailed this whole sci-fi satire thing. It just can't afford to take itself to seriously.

Douglas Adams springs to mind as well.

Andy Pants said...

Kurt Vonnegut really nailed this whole sci-fi satire thing. It just can't afford to take itself to seriously.

Douglas Adams springs to mind as well.

squib said...

Finally read Fahrenheit 451 and thought must read persey's review again. It's a bit shorter than I remember

Anyway, I didn't like the preachy Armageddon ending and I can't remember my phone number so find it hard to believe all those people could memorize books or chapters in one reading - maybe if they were all mad priests but seriously how many people have photographic memories and happen to be members of the booky resistance? But the rest was very believable - the parlour walls with their stupid wonderful and the empty, empty small talk. Think how many books are being destroyed and replaced by electronic versions and think how these are being not read anymore but dipped into via the search bar. Think about all those annoying people who tell you they have 200 classics which they got for free on their kindle and how they won't read a single one. Or the way people talk about the classics as though they are really, really hard to read - even though some classics were originally kid's books and most are dead easy (with the exception of Murphy and The Sound and the Fury). In the town I grew up in, there really were kids who drove around trying to hit cats for fun. So it mostly rang true for me but maybe that's to do with being from Western Australia

God, I really miss Andy Pants and Tiger in a tube. Andy Pants got me to join Shelfari and then never shelved a virtual book on his virtual shelf again

When I left Australia, I was too embarrassed to ask for my copy of Quincux back from someone because I didn't want to seem materialistic so I casually took it off their shelf and put it in my bag. I felt like such a thief but I think it's ok because I gave them a fridge and it was the best fridge I ever had

Alex said...

In the town I grew up in, there really were kids who drove around trying to hit cats for fun ... maybe that's to do with being from Western Australia

It ain't.

So, what classics would you suggest as the best for someone who's read bugger-all fiction but wants to start? I'm beginning with Wuthering Heights, on suggestion from Melbs and Nomes (EMS). What's your picks, Squib?

squib said...

Hi Alex - these books are highly page turning:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
L'Assommoir by Zola
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

Alex said...

Many thanks, Squib.

I hope the book “The Road” is better than the movie. Not that the movie was horrible, it just wasn't what I'd call great.

Perseus said...

I second The Road and L'assomoir - both fantastic. I also liked Wuthering Heights.

Alex said...

Cheers Pers, I'll put an underline under those ones.