by Ray Bradbury (1953)
A tale of future urban America, in which political or critical thought is suppressed by overwhelming popular entertainment and by burning all books, told with Bradbury’s typical simple and beautiful prose. Rarely has a tale suffused me with such peace and tranquillity than my making the transition from the frantic, advertising-saturated dystopia into the moonlit fields and abandoned railroads of the closing chapters.
The novel has a curiously bifurcated message for modern times. We would seem to be even more overwhelmed by noisy and crass distractions of types unimaginable in Bradbury’s time, often unable to pry ourselves free from a myriad compelling sources of entertainment.
However, for all the negative impact this internet may have had on our peace of mind and our attention spans, it has also provided tremendous benefits that to a great extent defuse the novel’s warnings. Books are now infinitely reproduceable. Dissenting thought or new ideas can easily be published and read by millions, free from fear of retribution by employers or governments, those weary giants of flesh and steel. Writing by any person in the world is routinely disseminated to and from the furthest corners of the globe in seconds. Instantly findable. Free from censorship. Archived forever. Unburnable.
This ease-of-use provides each of us with exactly what we demand of it. Just as Bradbury foretells, those of a studious mind, those with legitimate concerns, those with a desire to change the world or make something more out of life, these people will always gather to talk and plan and act. Only now, they can do so globally, instantly and effectively. For each of us, our salvation requires only that we choose to save ourselves.
10/10 if you fancy a bit of charming retro SF with a beautiful turn of phrase
0/10 if you think worrying about fulfilment in life, political affairs, or meaning in life is a big waste of time, especially if it’s done by way of science-fiction metaphors and hyperthetical future scenarios. Let’s go shopping!