According to Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451, the future holds dark dark things. Books have been banned by the government and the role of “fireman” is now to find and burn any that remain. The crime of reading or possessing books is punished with time spent in a psychiatric institute.
America has become self indulgent to an extreme with advanced education no longer respected. Violent crime for the sake of amusement is rampant by both civilians and firemen, usually at each other. The main character is a fireman named Guy Montag.
After work, he encounters a young woman whose ideas are oddly different than his. Talking to him gives him the chance to reexamine his beliefs about himself. Sadly, she later on is killed in a car accident.
Guy returns home to find his wife unconscious with an empty bottle of pills by her side. The emergency medical crew pumps out her blood and replaces it with fresh blood, but without much concern for her. Guy finds this distressing and is forced to confront his beliefs about society.
Shortly after this, he is at work preparing to burn the secret book stash belonging to an elderly woman when he gives in to temptation and steals one of her books.
The woman chooses to martyr herself and self immolates, rather than to voluntarily leave her home and book collection. Yet again, Guy finds himself examining the belief system of someone who held books in such high regard that she would be willing to die rather than to give them up.
Reeling from the shock of her suicide, Guy takes time off of work to rest. His supervisor visits him at home to explain the importance of his role to society. The fireman, he said, aided the government in suppressing literature to self regulate and help prevent cultural offenses.
Guy was warned that while all firemen eventually gave in to temptation and brought books home, there would be no punishment if it was turned in within 24 hours. After he leaves, Guy and his wife fight about his hidden book. His hatred of his wife and his country are clearly growing.
Over the next year, Montag hides many books in his home and attempts to memorize them. Eventually, he seeks out the help of a former professor. The teacher teaches Guy about the value of literature to humanity. He also gives Guy an earpiece in order to communicate with him during the day.
Eventually, Guy’s secret is discovered. The fire chief brings the firemen to Guy’s house and orders him to destroy his own home. His wife, who had betrayed him, is the one to begin burning their home. When they find his earpiece, they threaten to kill Faber, so Guy kills him and flees. He arrives at the professor’s home with television newscasters close behind.
With a war imminent, the newscasters are hoping to have a juicy story to entertain the public. Guy makes his way to the country where a group of fugitives are committing books to memory to preserve the contents, then burning the paper copies. While the helicopters search for Guy, the newscasters kill a man and frame Guy. Meanwhile, the war starts.
The city is attacked with nuclear weapons, incinerating his home and presumably killing his wife. Other cities are said to have been under attack as well. The book ends on a bizarrely upbeat tone, with references to phoenix rebuilding itself from the ashes of the destroyed cities. A classic that speaks to the reader more pointedly today than it did when it was written, totally worth five stars
Ray Bradbury reads this himself and does so admirably