Review: The Fountainhead (By Ayn Rand)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 694 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Howard Roark is a visionary architect in a city where individuality is unappreciated. He is brilliant in a time when the world is not ready for it. But he doesn’t care for anything other than his work. Roark refuses to compromise, refuses to bend under the will of society. And society has no choice but to destroy him because he’s too different.

The Fountainhead tells the story of Roark, and of his trials and tribulations. It tells the story of Peter Keating, a man who considered Roark his greatest enemy and attempted to defeat him at every turn. It tells the story of Dominique Francon, a woman who loved Roark passionately but did everything she could to destroy him just so that the world wouldn’t. And it tells the story of Gail Wynand, the epitome of the society against which Roark was pitted. The Fountainhead is Ayn Rand’s epic about a traditional world and the man who challenged the very conventions of which it was comprised.

The Bottom Line:

The Fountainhead is a sometimes cumbersome, always emotional, rollercoaster ride that people need to get on today more than ever before.

My take:

If you try to read existing reviews of Ayn Rand’s epic, you’d generally find them polarising – people either love or hate it. I felt a bit of both these emotions. It took me around 40 days to read the book, which is a really long time (for me); the main reason is that there were days when I just didn’t want to pick it up and read. But there were also days when I couldn’t put it down.

So, I’m going to break down this review into a few different parts, addressing different elements of the entire reading experience that I had with The Fountainhead. Hopefully, that will help you determine whether you want to read this famous classic or not, and what to expect should you choose to read it.

First, the story. The basic story of The Fountainhead is not really complicated or philosophical. It’s a slightly different take on ‘good guy versus bad guy’. At its very essence, it is the story of the struggles of a good man against the unyielding principles of a bad one. The only difference is that the bad guy is not one, but many – it’s society.

What bothered me the most about the story (not the philosophy) is that it is very limited in scope. While there are a lot of things happening, the events seem too fantastical. What I mean is that for such events to even happen, the world would have to have a maximum of maybe a hundred people. More than that, and the very basis of society on which the story moves forward would change, rendering the story pretty impossible.

Another thing that was really annoying was the abstractness of the narrative and dialog. There were times when things could have been said a lot more clearly and simply, but there was an abstract element factored in; it may have been intended to make the reader think, but it only served to make points a lot less effective. This book was definitely written to make a reader think, but I’d rather have focused on the philosophical side of it than exert even more energy just understanding basic dialog that is only meant to move the story forward.

Characterization. There is no denying that the characters in The Fountainhead are ones that will probably stick with you for years. But some characters are unbelievably annoying. I mean, sure, you need to make characters a certain way, but why add so much to them that they become downright infuriating? The fact of the matter is that no one is that extreme. Even when a person is built to be more of a ‘passion or nothing’ character, they are not that insane. At times it felt like Rand should have stopped just a step or two before she did to keep her characters human. What is worse though is that these characters, who are the epitome of belief, strength, and principles, randomly change without explanation. For a book that is based on the evolution of certain characters over long periods of time, this change should have been much better explained.

Another thing that was a bit much to take was the length of the book. While the first 150 pages and the last 150 pages have you hooked, the middle 400 just don’t. There were parts that were just unnecessary and, personally, I don’t think it would have lost much if it had been cut down by about 100 pages at least. Also, some parts of the book were just too much of an onslaught on the senses.

Yet, in spite of all those negative points, I can vehemently say that everyone should read this book. Because, here’s the thing: we live in a world where our identities are not determined by us, but by those around us. We rise not on our ability, but by comparing ourselves against others. We live in a time where social acceptance is the most coveted factor that drives almost all our actions (think social media likes and personas which may be so very different than reality). We create a reality for others to see, and we judge our successes, losses, achievements, and failures by comparing them against the reality that others create for us to see.

When, in reality, what we should do is determine our identities only by ourselves, by what we see looking back at us from a mirror. We should compete only with ourselves and rise above where we were the day before, every day. The only one whose acceptance we should need is that of ourself. And the only reality we should concern ourselves with is the one we live in, not the one that we create only to compete against those that others create.

In the rat race that the world has become, everyone gets caught up in living the ideal life. Except, what is that ideal life? We tend to obsess over the ideal we’re missing when we see others living it – generally through social media – even if that’s not really the ideal meant for you. The only ideal that matters is the one you reach when you feel internally happy. And you are the only one capable of making yourself happy.

Having aspirations, goals, and dreams is not wrong. But let them be your own aspirations, your own goals, and your own dreams. Let them be something you meet, achieve, and fulfill for the sense of completion, not because someone else did it and you want to do it better. At first glance, you may feel that this is nothing but selfishness.

But it is those very concepts of ego, selfishness, and selflessness that The Fountainhead redefines. And in doing so, it forces you to look at the world differently. It doesn’t just make you think, it changes your point of view – a perspective that you may have simply ingrained because you need to be a part of, and yet better than (or at least equal to), all those around you. And gaining that perspective is worth all the hours, days, and patience that the book takes to read.

We have gotten caught up in a race in which we’ve never had to run. And we’ve forgotten the race that matters. The Fountainhead changes that. In spite of the many limitations of its story, its philosophy is spot-on and very valid even in today’s day and age. It has universal applicability and the ability to change lives.

I’m an overthinker. Always have been. I’ve even known when I need to stop obsessing about certain things such as past events that I keep revisiting in my head or the massive hesitation before doing something new. Yet, I’ve never been able to let things go. But since I started reading The Fountainhead, I have found myself pausing at such times and asking myself one question.

“What would Howard Roark do?”

And things seem a lot simpler. So, just for that, I’d say that everyone needs to read this book. It may feel incredibly cumbersome at times. But if you can take away the perspective that’s at its core, it’ll be well worth the effort.

In closing, I’d just like to say that the negative points I’ve highlighted may compel some people to say, “It was – and is – brilliant, considering the time in which it was written.” There is no doubt about the brilliance of the vision that drove this book. But as far as thinking of it from a ‘period’ perspective is concerned – the fact is that anyone reading this book is reading it today. Which means that they need to like, love, dislike, or hate it, today. I’ve put this review together keeping in mind that fact and actually not putting too much weight on when it was written. I will always say that it was probably visionary for its time. But that is, and will remain, an opinion that does not influence the way I felt about the book, its characters, its story, and its philosophy.

– Rishika

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Review: All Systems Red (By Martha Wells)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 144 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

SecUnits are androids that accompany exploratory teams traveling to different planets in a distant future. Half human, half machine, their job is to keep the humans in their charge safe. Their rules are governed and issued by the company that approves and supplies all interspace missions. But safety isn’t a big concern when profits are at stake. Which is why the SecUnit accompanying Dr. Mensah and her team doesn’t bother too much when they face numerous technical glitches. Until they lose contact with another exploratory team that was on the other side of the desolate planet.

In the search for answers, Dr. Mensah and her team discover something unexpected. Their SecUnit has hacked into its own governor module. It isn’t, and never has been, answerable to anyone. And it calls itself ‘Murderbot’. Murderbot has a history, one that gives the humans enough reason to question his role in the dangers surrounding them. But they have more reason to trust it. And no choice but to do so when they realize that their lives depend on uncovering the truth about what happened to their neighboring mission team. But is trusting an advanced AI who is openly apprehensive of humans and generally indifferent the right choice? What is it that Murderbot really wants? And who will have to pay the price when the android is forced to choose between the freedom it’s come to like, and a lifetime of servitude that awaits it if its actions were to go public?

The Bottom Line:

A fast-paced, action-packed read that takes the unique perspective of the android, Murderbot, itself, and hits the reader with a host of emotions, expected and unexpected.

My take:

All Systems Red begins without much foreplay. It just leaps right into the story, and into the head of its main character – Murderbot. As such, it takes some time to get used to the slang and style, making the first couple of pages really interesting, but also requiring slow reading. But once you get the hang of it, there’s no pausing.

At 144 pages, it’s a short book, and every page is filled with information. And somehow, Wells manages to depict detailed characterization and character development in this short length. The characters can get a bit confusing (I honestly took some time to figure out who was male and female!), but that doesn’t really affect the reading experience. The characters themselves are so defined that that is the only thing you really care about.

Although interesting, the story is not unheard of or not previously-never-done. But what really stands out is the POV. The entire story is told from the perspective of Murderbot itself. The android has no misconceptions about what it likes or dislikes, and its own strengths and weaknesses, but it continues trying to figure out what all that stuff really means for it as an entity. This is a character that is trying to understand itself, and yet the effort of this activity takes a toll on it. In all of this, it still continues to care about the people in its protection, showcasing that it is inherently good.

For the most part, Murderbot is like a child. It sees the good and the bad, focuses on the good, and tries to do what it perceives to be right. But, it also has a strong survival instinct, driven by its past. These two halves of itself often put Murderbot in a conundrum. All Systems Red follows the development of Murderbot as it traverses the confusing waters of what it means to be itself, while fighting off an external threat that is way out of its comfort zone and job description.

The story follows the basic arc of an abandoned planet, a team of researchers caught in a threat they don’t understand, an unidentified enemy whose motivation is just as unknown, and a desperate attempt for survival. Yet, its fresh take makes the book very interesting. Plus, it keeps moving without reprieve, has something happening almost all the time, and keeps you turning the pages wondering, “What happens next?”

I thought the end of the book was actually pretty brilliant. Although many people have found it to be anti-characteristic, I found it to be quite the opposite. What I felt when reading the end was pretty simple – there could have been no better, natural conclusion. I think that Wells was very clear about the personalities of her characters, no matter however much conflict they are in, with each other and themselves. They are basically human. And the end made me feel like she definitely seems to have a strong understanding of what that means.

All in all, All Systems Red is a fast, interesting read that introduces a character who I definitely want to follow. There are three more books in the series – two have been released and the fourth (and apparently final) chapter releases this October. I’m definitely putting this series on my list, and will explore more of Wells’ work too.

All Systems Red is highly recommended to those who enjoy:

  • sci-fi of all types
  • action thrillers
  • movies like Alien and Life

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

– Rishika

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Review: Micro (By Michael Crichton and Richard Preston)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 540 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Eric Hansen works at Nanigen Micro-technologies, a company whose operations and products are shrouded in secrecy. But Nanigen is huge and stands at the cutting edge of science and technology. Eric, his girlfriend and company CFO, Alyson, and Nanigen CEO, Vincent Drake, travel across the country looking for new recruits who would want to take advantage of the technology and equipment at Nanigen, tools that could help them shape the future. Eric’s brother, Peter, and his six colleagues accept an offer to visit Nanigen before deciding whether they want to be employed by the company.

But the day before the visit, Peter gets a message from Eric telling him not to come. Before he can decipher the short and abrupt message, he gets a call from Alyson. His brother, Eric, died in a boating accident. Shocked and confused, Peter travels to Hawai, where Nanigen is located, a day before his colleagues. He is barely able to digest the information he receives over the next twenty-four hours. And decides to confront the people he believes are responsible for Eric’s death. But things don’t go as planned. Peter and his friends are exposed to the bizarre technology that Nanigen has perfected, and tossed into the rainforest. Now, it is up to these seven young individuals to find a way back home before nature defeats their survival instinct. In the wild, you don’t get points for trying. It’s either win or lose for Peter and his friends. And the only thing at stake, is their lives.

The Bottom Line:

An interesting but too fantastic premise, which lays the groundwork for a fast-paced thriller that falls short of being truly Crichton-esque.

My take:

Micro received a lot of flak for being very un-Crichton-like. One of the main problems that readers have been vocal about is that the language isn’t Crichton’s style, and the disparity too obvious and, consequently, unpleasant.

But, given that it was supposed to be his last (unfinished) work, I didn’t go in expecting too much, which is probably why that disparity (which really is obvious) didn’t bother me too much. I did draw parallels to Crichton’s other work, although that was more on the things that I really like about his work, and not as much on style.

Coming to the review of Micro

The story itself is good, even if it’s a bit on the fantastic side. I mean, re-engineering dinosaurs through fossilized mosquitoes and frog DNA is actually more believable than the scientific premise of Micro. The lack of scientific explanation may be the reason, but the entire premise is sort of a given, and you’re just supposed to believe it. There is no moral discussion on it, there is no skepticism, and there’s very little time (in the story arc) to even understand the tech (for characters or readers). That makes the entire sci-fi angle, which could have been pretty great, fall a bit flat.

The rest of the story is interesting though. You get a detailed look into how dangerous nature can be, and the character arcs move along pretty well. There is an expected bit of violence, but the extent of its graphic nature can catch you a bit off-guard. The story moves along smoothly, and is fast-paced. The plot twists aren’t really surprising, but do add interesting dimensions to the story.

What I really missed in Micro, though, was the detail to human nature.

Crichton’s work has a very unique perspective on human nature, and the many good and bad things it makes people do. It’s not explicitly described, but can be gleaned from his choice of dialog and character development. And it’s always instrumental in the way the story progresses. That is something that I’ve always loved about his work and really missed in Micro.

The lack of that touch is also probably what makes Micro move along like an interesting sci-fi, mystery read, but doesn’t leave an incredible impression like many of his other books. The style of the book is also more mystery-like than sci-fi, something that will strike (and has struck) a lot of Crichton fans as odd and unpleasant.

All in all, Micro is an interesting read for many reasons (general story, pace, thrill), and so makes for an enjoyable experience (minus some aspects). But it isn’t really Crichton-esque. So, I’d recommend the book to those who enjoy all types of sci-fi; but if you’re a hard-core Crichton fan, only pick this book up if you can do so with no expectations.

Read Micro? Share your thoughts on the book and what you liked/disliked about it in the comments section below!

– Rishika

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Review: Brahma Dreaming (By John Jackson)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 239 page

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Brahma Dreaming is John Jackson’s version of the stories of the three great Gods of Hinduism – Brahma (The Creator), Vishnu (The Preserver), and Shive (The Destroyer). Accompanied by illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, the book takes the readers across the many stories of Hinduism that represent the continuous forces of creation, preservation, and destruction.

The Bottom Line:

A charming read that introduces readers to Hinduism and the many epics that are its building blocks.

My take:

Brahma Dreaming can be considered an introduction to Hindu mythology. The subject is very vast and covered in parts by numerous books. Brahma Dreaming brings all of them together to share a brief look at the epics of Hinduism.

The book is extremely charming, especially the first chapter. It is written in a simple, straightforward, yet soft manner. Each chapter tells a different story in a continuing arc, and chapters are often interconnected. The illustrations are really good and really add to the book and the reading experience.

In essence, Brahma Dreaming is like the teaser of stories on which Hinduism has been built. It’s that brief a glimpse into the vastness of those stories. It gives a good introduction to the more well-known entities and tales on which a lot of Hindu children have grown up. But it doesn’t really delve into the lessons and morals that those epics are meant to showcase.

Personally, I’ve not read the detailed versions of those stories. I’ve read some abridged versions, and heard more through general discussion. So, I already knew a bit of the stories in Brahma Dreaming; but quite a bit was new and interesting too. Even in the cases where the stories differed from those that I knew in certain aspects, the retelling was intriguing.

Whether you’re absolutely new to the stories, or whether you’ve heard of them before, Brahma Dreaming (with its charming style and beautiful illustrations) evokes enough interest to make you want to explore the subject further.

I’d recommend Brahma Dreaming to:

  • people who enjoy reading mythology
  • those who want to know more about Hindu mythology
  • anyone who enjoys a bit of fantasy

Share your thoughts on Brahma Dreaming, or any related recommendations you may have, in the comments section below!

– Rishika

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Review: The Innocent (By David Baldacci)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 422 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Government assassin, Will Robie, returns from two successful assignments in Tangier and Edinburgh to find that his next target is right in his home city – a government employee who needs to be eliminated for an unknown reason. But on the day, faced by the young woman he’s meant to kill and the child that’s holding on to her, Robie, for the first time in his life, hesitates. Before he realizes his mistake, a secondary shooter kills both mother and child. Robie manages to escape in spite of his handler leading him to the second shooter, and imminent death. Putting his personal escape plan into action, he heads to the bus station to get on the next bus to New York with a ticket booked earlier under an alias.

Fourteen-year-old Julie Getty has been forced into the foster care system due to a recurring drug problem faced by parents who have made numerous attempts to turn clean. When she receives a note from her mother stating that they want to make a new start as a family, Julie runs away from her foster home. Returning to her own house, she sees her parents being murdered by a lone killer. She manages to escape and heads to the bus station, coincidentally getting on the same bus as Robie in an attempt to leave town.

But the killer follows her on board. Robie stops him before he finishes his mission. Moments later, Robie and Julie get off the bus. And the bus is blown to smithereens. Unsure of who between them the target was, Robie feels compelled to protect Julie. But his plans to help Julie and save himself are brought to an abrupt halt when he’s called back in by his department to liaise with the FBI on the assassination-gone-wrong, and discover who had set him up. Now, Robie is working with FBI Special Agent Nicole Vance on a crime at which he’d been present. He knows that, somehow, everything is connected. Only by discovering how can Robie prove his innocence and save lives… including Vance’s, Julie’s, and his own. But, to do that, Robie needs to identify who he can really trust. Struggling to get to the truth in a web lies, Robie is running out of time. He needs to get to the bottom of things before Vance uncovers his real profession and the role he really played in the events of the night, and before more people around him are killed.

The Bottom Line:

A typical Baldacci political-crime-conspiracy-thriller that takes an oddly analytic look at assassinations and murder, and that introduces a hero with lots of potential.

My take:

The Innocent is a typical Baldacci book – it’s got the political angle, it’s got a hero who has a unique moral compass, and it’s got the crime thriller angle that keeps the pages turning. The story is complicated enough to be interesting and stops just short of becoming down-right confusing.

As expected from Baldacci’s work, the most intriguing aspect of The Innocent is the new hero it introduces. Will Robie is intrinsically a good guy with exceptional skills, and he’s an assassin for his government. He is a man trained to kill, he’s good at it, and he feels no remorse about his profession. The book often touches upon the concept of good vs. evil, and the reality that humans (even those like Robie) are essentially not one or the other. As a character, he is definitely interesting and, although I didn’t find the book as good as others by Baldacci, I definitely want to follow Robie’s development.

One thing that really stands out is the bluntness of the violence. It isn’t gory nor exaggerated in any way. It is oddly calculated. When Robie eliminates a target or sees someone dead, he perceives and analyses it with the strangest simplicity, practicality, and mundaneness. He does not think of life as cheap, as is made very evident. But the coldness with which he looks at death definitely adds a lot to his characterization.

The only downside, if I had to choose, is that the story was good, but could have been much better. It has a lot of build-up but ends up being slightly anticlimactic – not in delivery, but in the story itself. Maybe a couple of pages more about how the many different angles came together, and why, would have made the story more compelling, and consequently more fulfilling.

Should you read The Innocent? It doesn’t have to be the first David Baldacci you pick up, but it’s definitely one that should be on the list, even if it makes an appearance slightly later. Recommended to:

  • fans of David Baldacci
  • political-conspiracy-crim-fiction lovers looking for a new series
  • anyone who wants to read a fast-paced, slightly-complicated crime fiction

Read The Innocent or any other Baldacci books? Share your thoughts on Will Robie or whoever your favorite Baldacci character is in the comments below!

– Rishika

 

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Review: The Sleeping Doll (By Jeffery Deaver)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 530 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

CBI Special Agent Kathryn Dance is the best in her field. She’s an expert in kinesics which makes her a very good agent and an exceptional interrogator. But she’s never tried to read someone like Daniel Pell. In 1999, Pell murdered an entire family, unwittingly leaving behind a young girl who was asleep, and hidden behind dolls. After eight years in prison, Pell evokes renewed interest by the CBI when new evidence connects him to another murder. The interview with Pell is meant for Dance to find the truth.

But things don’t go as planned. Within moments of the interview that leaves Dance unsettled, Pell is on the run, death and destruction in his wake. Now Dance has to rely on everything she could learn about Pell during the short interview as the CBI and local police begin an immense manhunt. But Pell behaves nothing like as escaped convict. He seems to have no interest in leaving the area. Dance struggles to identify the reason, and comes to a disturbing conclusion – she and Pell may be looking for the same person, the young girl who survived, the one called The Sleeping Doll. And as Pell outsmarts Dance and her colleagues at every step of the way, she begins to fear that her inability to read him might cost even more lives, especially those of the ones close to her.

The Bottom Line:

An interesting enough crime thriller, whose most positive factor is the technicalities of the protagonist’s profession.

My take:

I started reading Jeffery Deaver with his first novel, The Bone Collector (check out my review of that one here). What was most impressive about that book was the detail to the technicalities of forensics.

The Sleeping Doll mirrors Deaver’s skill in that regard. It goes into quite a lot of detail about kinesics, without becoming text-bookish. In fact, the theoretical angle actually paves the way for the story to move forward in many places.

The protagonist, Katheryn Dance, is… strange. For whatever reason, you don’t exactly like her right away. In retrospect, I think it’s because of her excessive ability to understand people’s actions, which makes her oddly reaction-less to a great extent (even though she isn’t emotion-less). She initially comes across as an aloof individual, but grows on you as the story proceeds and her personality unfolds.

Although the antagonist, Daniel Pell, is shown (through repetitive mentions by other characters) to be an extremely dangerous, sadistic psychopath, his character just didn’t have enough of a cringe factor to drive the point home. He falls short, seeming more like a villain who tries very hard to be coolly insane, but only manages to remain basically-negative.

As a story, The Sleeping Doll definitely has a lot of twists. As can be expected from Deaver’s work, it does a good job of maintaining the suspense until revelation time. Yet, it does seem to fall short of being an edge-of-your-seat-thriller. And I’d chalk this up to Pell’s character too. To be honest, he just wasn’t as scary as everyone in the story claimed him to be. And since most of the storyline is based on how brilliant and devious he is, the lacking in characterization greatly affects the overall feel of the book.

The supporting characters are (as expected) strong, with each person adding interesting elements to the story. You really associate with a lot of the characters, and Dance too, until you are invested enough to want to know what happens next. Which is why I would definitely continue to read the Dance series. I’d recommend this book to:

  • fans of crime fiction and crime thrillers
  • fans of Jeffery Deaver (may not be as good as the Rhyme series, but is definitely worth reading for its typical Deaver-ness)
  • fans of shows like Criminal Minds and Lie To Me (which I haven’t seen but know the premise of; I find some similarities in that and the kinesics-interrogation approach this book takes)

Let me know what you thought of The Sleeping Doll (or if I should ever actually watch Lie To Me)… share your comments below!

P.S.: I still prefer the Lincoln Rhyme series, although that may be because I’ve read more of them and there’s been significant character development. But, I’m still very keen to see where Dance’s story takes her.

Until the next book.

– Rishika

 

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Review: Fahrenheit 451 (By Ray Bradbury)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 194 pages

My rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Guy Montag is a fireman in a futuristic, dystopian world. Books are illegal in this world, and the only job that Guy and other firemen have is to burn books hoarded or read by rebels. It’s the only life Guy knows, the only one he believes to be right and true. Until he meets a strange young woman, Clarisse, who speaks of sharing ideas, of living a life beyond the television-addicted one that most people live, of a life before books were banned. And Guy begins to question everything he’s ever known. Attracted to the very books he’d spent most of his life destroying, he begins to read in secret. But little does he know that books have the power to change thought and life. While Guy struggles to understand the new emotions and unrest he’s experiencing, Clarisse disappears. And Guy is thrust into his worst nightmare – fighting the very people and system of which he was an integral part. Will his new-found ability to see the world differently than others save him? Or is he doomed to the fate he brought upon so many others – death by fire or life in prison?

The Bottom Line:

Fahrenheit 451 tries very hard to be thought-provoking, intense, and visionary but falls short on most of it, managing to become little more than a narrative that’s too abstract, broken, and choppy.

My take:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury has a reputation. Published in 1953, the book was visionary in its take on a dystopian, television-focused future. It was also raw and sort of in-your-face regarding a lot of the ‘given aspects’ of life. Consequently, the book was republished (infamously) with a cleaner, less abusive version, and was also (ironically) banned from schools’ reading lists. Yet, it received many accolades for its story and stand, becoming a beloved classic for many reader groups, and being touted as Bradbury’s best work ever.

Which is why I get that I may not be in the majority when I say that I did not like this book.

The book definitely has some aspects that were visionary. The dystopian future, the technology-addiction, and the heightened sensitivity to anything and everything – all of this adds really interesting elements to the feel and setting of the book. It also has aspects that are thought-provoking – what happens when people stop thinking for themselves, what happens to compassion and society when we only become involved in thrills and getting that next high, what happens when free speech is no longer a thing, and what happens when people believe nothing but that which they’re trained to know, see, hear, and accept. These points paint the picture of a harsh world which, to be honest, doesn’t seem that far-fetched now. And the fact that our world may not be too far from becoming that which the book depicts really makes you think about just where people – rather, humanity –  is going.

The sad part though is that the book doesn’t do a great job of successfully evoking these thoughts to the extent that it can. Fahrenheit 451 has a lot of potential, but I found it really failing on implementation.

The book is written in an extremely abstract manner. That definitely has its appeal as a style; but not when it’s so overdone that you sort of get lost in the abstract prose and can no longer follow the intended meaning. This is especially predominant in Guy Montag’s thoughts and actions. A simple action is exaggerated to give you a real feel of its intensity. But the exaggeration just does not end. It goes on and on to the point that you forget what the action was, and can barely understand the thought it evokes. By the time you’re brought back to the scene, you’ve traversed numerous other, unrelated ones, and completely lost track of where the story was going.

Most of the book is this way – with simple actions and thoughts, and even the settings, made extremely abstract. And while I do enjoy abstract touches in prose, I thought Fahrenheit 451 went so far with it that it moved from being abstract to being downright convoluted. A lot of what the book could have offered as a dystopian environment was lost because it was just so confusing to comprehend. Then there’s the fact that books are burned, but knowledge is passed down. Some books are allowed, but no one is allowed to think for themselves. It seems like all these were brilliant aspects of an idea that somehow just never came together. And, in the end, the reason for books being banned in the way that they were just didn’t make sense. Personally, it made me think that if Bradbury had spent less time on abstract descriptions and more on actually adding to the story and setting instead of leaving it tacit, the book would have been very different.

All in all, Fahrenheit 451 has a very interesting premise (which is why it gets 1.5 stars instead of something much lower) but makes for an unpleasant, slightly cumbersome read (which is a very difficult thing to achieve in a book this short). I heard about the book when its movie adaptation gained popularity. The blurb seemed very exciting, so I wanted to read the book before I watched the movie. Although I didn’t enjoy the book, I do want to watch the film to see its cinematic interpretation (which didn’t do all that well, apparently, but… oh well!).

It may have gone down in history as a cult classic, but I really would not recommend Fahrenheit 451 to anyone. There are better books that fit into the dystopian genre, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Share your thoughts on the movie and the book in the comments below! And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

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