Tag Archives: Censorship

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (4/5)

12 Nov

It’s been a long time since I read tis book. I think it was Sophomore year of high school for my American Literature class. I remember it ‘didn’t suck’ and that was about how much I cared then. I have a copy of this book on my shelf, but when my book club picked it for our November read, I realized the audiobook would be easier and picked that up.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Bradbury also wrote The Martian Chronicles

Summary from Goodreads:

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

I didn’t remember this book well so I went into it with a different idea of how it would end. I was looking for something that focused more on books when the government was much more a focus of this novel. I remember Clarisse being a bigger character and forgot all about Mildred and Faber. The idea of burning books to limit idea sharing and to better control the population is frightening and close to home. We have books in America that are banned and challenged all the time. Reasons range from sexual content to ideas and it’s the latter that scares me. Why would we restrict ideas? If we do, are we getting closer to Bradbury’s world? It’s a scary road to go down.

I loved the contrast between Guy at the beginning and him at the end. Milly and Guy are very blissful at the beginning and they’ve been taught not to trust things they don’t know or understand. But Guy is worn down by Clarisse. I thought this was a very natural progression and it was well done in the book. The Guy we see at the end comes up with original ideas for evading the police and forms human attachments that are more than superficial. He is a very different ‘guy’ by the end.

Beatty was a great character. He was very smart, obviously, and smart enough to let you know what he knew without being in danger. A stupid villain is useless which made Beatty scary. In the end, he wasn’t really the bad guy. Mildred turned Guy in, not Beatty. He wanted to trust Guy, to give him the benefit of the doubt and let a slip-up be just that and nothing more. Once he was reported there was nothing else Beatty could do. He was sympathetic, which made his death all the more surprising.

I think any book lover relates to Faber on some level. You want to be the person who would keep books hidden if they were ever banned. But he’s not the one I related to most. I related to Guy because he’s learning to question the world around him the same way children learn to question things as they grow up. In Bradbury’s world, no one developed the capacity to think for themselves. Those that did were silenced. Guy’s story is frightening because we’ve all gone through the process of individualized awakening and the idea of that sense of individuality being forbidden is frightening.

Ray Bradbury Image from Wikipedia

Ray Bradbury
Image from Wikipedia

I liked the chase scene at the end. I’d forgotten it was in there and I liked the level of suspense it added to the book. The vagabonds Guy meets are very likable, too, which made me like the scene more. It showed how complete guy’s ability to think for himself had developed and it showed the group mentality of all the others very well. It was a great climax.

I can’t think of a part of this book that I didn’t enjoy. It’s very short and to the point and I liked that about it. There were no fluff scenes and there was almost no back story to slow it down. I can say I was annoyed by the beginning, but I was supposed to be. I thought it was wonderfully paced.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Stephen Hoye. I think I’ve listened to something he narrated before (possibly Brave New World) because his voice sounded familiar. I thought he did a good job, but nothing that blew me out of the water. His inflection is a little flat, but that’s fitting for this book and I think it was intentional to help convey the fear Guy was experiencing and the expressionlessness of the people in the society.

It’s a little overwhelming that ‘Guy’ is supposed to refer to every man and imply that this is every man’s journey as I touched on before. We all have to have an individualized awakening that helps us realize what is important and how we can have an individual identity separate from the whole. There’s also the important theme of controlling information. With no books, the governing body can control what information everyone receives from their TV families and on advertisements and in schools. It’s frightening to limit individual expression. I think Bradbury would approve of the internet and blogs because they allow people to communicate and share ideas, sometimes dangerous ideas, with very limited censorship and in a quantity that the government couldn’t silence if they tried. I think, had blogs been a medium when he was thinking of the concept for this book, the message would have needed a different story.

Writer’s Takeaway: Bradbury does an amazing job with Guy’s voice in this book. He starts the narration off in a very flat and disinterested way which is reflective of Guy’s personality and interaction with the world. As it develops into a reactionary voice, Guy learns more about himself and his ideas. I think this parallel helps emphasize the change and I really liked it as a writing tool.

 

A classic story that I’m glad to have revisited again. Four out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
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Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth (5/5). The trilogy ramps up!

6 Mar

I know I said I read Divergent quickly, but I flew through Insurgent. I think I read 95% of the book in three sittings, the last one being Saturday morning where I didn’t get out of bed for three hours because I wanted to finish it. I considered giving this 4 out of 5 stars as well, but I liked it a lot more than the first book, so it gets a full 5 stars. By the way, there will be massive spoilers in the summary. You have been warned.

Cover Image courtesy of Goodreads.com

Cover Image courtesy of Goodreads.com

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Starting off exactly where the first book ended, Tris and Tobias must find a way to defeat the Erudite and the rebel-Dauntless who have murdered half of the Abnegation. They try to find support in Amity to no avail and hide themselves temporarily among the factionless before seeking refuge among the Candor. When they learn they are a bargaining chip the Candor leader will use to save his own pepole, the Dauntless return to their home. Jeanine has had the rebel-Dauntless raid the Candor headquarters before they can escape, shooting a simulation chip into most Candor and some Dauntless. Tris and Tobias fear that with this power, Jeanine will attack again and the Dauntless numbers are not high enough to fight back. The Dauntless align themselves with the factionless in an attempt to eradicate the Erudite and their knowledge.

Meanwhile, Tobias’s father knows that there is some secret information that Tris’s father died to protect. Jeanine is keeping it from the rest of the population because it will change the way society functions so entirely that nothing will never return to the way it was. Without telling Tobias, Tris finds a way to avoid the Dauntless invasion, instead sneaking in with a team of four and trying to uncover the information. While Tris fails, Tobias find the information and is able to broadcast it to the entire population. It would seem that everyone is living in a giant experiment that hopes to find those with the ability to problem solve from different points of view: the Divergent.

I am much more enthusiastic about this series after reading Insurgent. The summary I gave leaves out a bunch of things for the sake of simplicity and still probably doesn’t make much sense. I’m too busy thinking about reading Allegiant to care. The ending reminded me of a book I read way back in middle school, Running out of Time, where the main character discovers she’s living in a time capsule and that outside of her town, it’s not the 1700s but the 1990s. I’m so excited to see where Roth goes with the final book and I’m anticipating finding out what happens beyond the walls.

Insurgent is about power: who has power, who deserves it, who we should trust with power, and what to do once you have it. Evelyn, Tobias’s mother and leader of the factionless, gains power and tries to usurp the factions and impose a faction-less system. Jeanine obviously has power and she keeps it through careful guard of information and limited access to full details. Tris is nominated to be a Dauntless leader but turns it down, knowing that there are others who will use the power better than herself. The question of whom to trust is hard to answer. Johnanna, the leader of Amity, seems to be one of the most trustworthy to me. She defies her own faction in order to stop the fighting, realize that what’s happening is bigger than her and Amity. Even in the end, the most powerful thing is information and it’s only through freedom of information that power can be restored.

Jeanine withholding information is a good reference to censorship and what it can mean for a population. In Insurgentthe population doesn’t know their origins and when Jeanine finds out and knows it will hurt her, she keeps the information hidden. This reminds me of the Freedom of Information Act and how scared politicians seemed that the information revealed would damage them personally. Government censorship is a hot topic in many countries today, North Korea being a prime example. Censorship can oppress a population into submission.

Comparison to The Hunger Games is obvious. An oppressive government that wants to hold off a revolt through withholding information, etc. The change that I like in the Divergent series is that the oppression really comes from within. Whatever exists outside the fence has set up the world that Tris lives in, but Jeanine is keeping them there. I really like this twist and it feeds on fear of the unknown.

Returning to the theory that dystopias are popular now because of our dissatisfaction with the current government and economy, I think that censorship is a great topic for Roth to cover in her books. I’ve heard before that those outside the US think we’re ignorant of world issues. I wonder if Roth is commenting on this and how the information we receive is filtered. On the news, I’m more likely to see a piece about local high school sports than the Ukraine. That’s a form of censorship.

This is probably the least coherent book review I’ve written and I think it’s because of what a whirlwind this book was to me!

Writer’s Takeaway: Talk about action! I almost think there was too much action in this book. In each of the short chapters, there was a massive amount of action packed into the terse prose. The plot kept moving so quickly that I didn’t have time to absorb what was happening some times.

I also thought there were a lot of characters and it was hard for me to keep them straight. I was glad that Roth didn’t re-introduce every character at the beginning of the second book, but even characters I thought had clear relationships in my mind got confused by half way in. I couldn’t remember everyone’s girlfriend, parents’ names, original faction, and loyalties; it was too much.

Despite these complaints, I still think this was an excellent example of a YA book with action and meaning. I think it was a great sequel. A full 5 out of 5 stars.

Until next time, write on.

Related Posts:
Review- Insurgent (Divergent Series. Book #2) by Veronica Roth | Book Gossips
Insurgent by Veronica Roth | Review | The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say shhh!
Insurgent by Veronica Roth | Nerdy Book Club
Lottie Reviews: Insurgent by Veronica Roth | Lottie Reads
Insurgent by Veronica Roth Review 3/5 | Blogs-of-a-Bookaholic