“Forget them. Burn them all, burn everything. Fire is bright and fire is clean.”
I´m torn on this one… At the same time as I think I really enjoyed it and all the interesting ideas about society it has, I think it mostly just confused me and left me sort of high and dry.
To start off, I think this book can be read in a couple of ways. You either see it as a novel about censorship or about the effects of modern technology and how it detaches people from the real world. So, already I´m torn here. For me, if this is a book about censorship (books being banned in this dystopian universe), I think it´s great and many of its messages can be translated into today´s society, even if the book was published in 1953. But, it being published in 1953 leads me to why I don´t agree with the other way you can interpret this book. While I can understand technology coming to have the overwhelming and quite negative effects portrayed in this book being a concern for people in the 50´s, it doesn´t really translate into the reality we have today in my opinion and feels outdated. Yes, many worry about the amount of time we spend with phones etc. But my opinion in that debate is that human kind still has ended up better off now in comparison to in the 50´s, to put it short. There is of course more to that debate, but I´ll leave it for now.
So that left me somewhere in the middle. Next thing that did the same, is the plot as well as the writing.
When it comes to the writing and the idea behind the book, I loved it. Absolutely and entirely. I think the idea is fascinating (despite above problems) and Bradbury has a writing style that is quite different but beautifully descriptive and flowing. Just read this and you´ll see what I mean:
“Delicately, like the petals of a flower. Light the first page, light the second page. Each becomes a black butterfly. Beautiful, eh? Light the third page from the second and so on, chain-smoking, chapter by chapter, all the silly things the words mean, all the false promises, all the second-hand notions and time-worn philosophies.’ There sat Beatty, perspiring gently, the floor littered with swarms of black moths that had died in a single storm.”
But at the same time, many times things would turn from one thing to another in quite a dreamy and almost trippy way that I´m not sure if I love or hate looking back at it. While reading, I didn´t really like it. It made it harder for me to get into the book and many times it just confused me. Afterward, reflecting on it, I suppose it could be the effect Bradbury wanted, making the reader feel as if just flowing and following along without really knowing when one thing turns into the next because we´re so preoccupied with the information being fed constantly through media.
However, I´m fully sure I don´t really like how it ended. It never felt like I got proper closure and there were so many strings left untied I don´t feel like I even know if they belong to the same thing. It introduced us to this whole new thing and then just left us, which is quite connected to the fact that the pacing also feels a bit odd to me. It´s quite slow in the beginning and then it turns into full-action in the last third, making me almost forget everything that had happened in the beginning.
Lastly, I just want to point out I feel like there is a bit of the actual premise that isn´t right. This society is post-literate and it seemed to me they got rid of books because it was too much work almost and that it´s just easier watching tv all day instead, that we are better of left uninformed and happy, but doesn´t that go against the principles of evolutionary psychology in a way? Is it really possible that humans would develop so far we would start working against that fundamental “setting” in our brain that tells us to always strive for more? It´s not really a criticism of the book, but an interesting thought it left me with.
I´m sure there were more layers to the book then I discovered and I´m sure it´s the kind I could reread and either have my mind completely turned around or not changed at all. Either way, for now, it was somewhere in the middle for me. It had points that were masterful, and some I didn´t find fit my taste.