The first thing I thought of after reading this book was, “Aha, now I know where the people who made Book of Eli got the idea.” My next thought centered around how cool it is to read sci-fi written sixty years ago. If you can’t tell, for the most part, I’m pretty shallow.
This idea of power becoming concentrated in the world, so much that the powerful can control your thoughts and actions thereby squashing all creativity and independent thinking, is common in literature. Literature has enlightened us with this idea via fiction in an attempt to bring down dictatorships and admonish concentration in media.
Bradbury wrote this book in the late 1950s and some believe it was his response to book burnings and general censorship scares going on in the US at that time. The title refers the autoignition point of paper. It’s a futuristic thriller about a fireman, named Guy Montag, who’s job it is to burn books that people have hidden because it’s illegal to own books. However, Montag has second thoughts about his role in this seemingly “happy” society, so the fun begins.
Montag’s wife wastes her life away in a happy, drug-addicted daze watching TV and she just wants to be left alone. Montag begs:
“Let you alone! That’s all very well, but how can I leave myself alone? We need not be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”
So he cares, so much that he turns his flamethrower on his boss in a fit of fury and goes on the run. He has help from others who care, which is needed, because he’s being chased by a sinister mechanical dog. Bradbury incorporates futuristic things like communication devices in the form of tiny earpieces and close circuit TVs all over the city.
Eventually the chase by the authorities dwindles because the police capture and kill an innocent and broadcast it to the world. That’s all they really needed to do to keep humanity in line. Then they blow up the town with nukes. Wild stuff.
Hope is not lost though, because Montag meets up with a pack of humans in the countryside who have devoted their lives to memorizing the great works of literature. The are headed back into the burned out city to start the revolution.