With a television adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 coming to HBO in the autumn of 2018, it’s perhaps no surprise that The Folio Society has decided to launch a version of Ray Bradbury’s dystopian classic. After all, they are masters of creating utterly lovely reprints of books you haven’t quite got round to reading and every time they reprint a classic, it gives STARBURST an excuse to talk about the book.
Fahrenheit 451 is quite rightly considered a classic bit of dystopian science-fiction. For those of you who have somehow missed it (or perhaps didn’t have to read it in school), the story is set in futuristic America. Society has become pretty hedonistic; everyone’s needs are seemingly easily met and technology allows easy access to entertainment. Books, however, are banned. Possessing literature is illegal and Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper burns. The story focuses on Guy Montag, a chap whose job it is to burn books. His title is ‘Fireman’ - there’s no fire rescue service as technology makes sure houses don’t burn. Chance encounters with those who don’t think like ‘normal’ people and the realisation that his life is hollow and without context leads Guy to rebel.
Bradbury is one of the giants of science fiction, and this is his best-known work. It’s worth remembering that it’s 65 years old. Many of the ‘futuristic’ elements such as massive television screens, on-demand reality-style television and in-ear headphones are now part of the background noise of modern living. Others, such as hunter-killer dog-shaped robots are still in development, though closer than you may think. This is irrelevant to the narrative, however; Bradbury’s core message is a stark warning about how easily a society could lose its way. Bradbury proposes that without access to things that inspire critical thinking and self-reflection then we will lose our way. In short, that an unexamined life is not worth living. Books are held up as ‘the thing’ that represents depth, but the principle applies to all art of course. As such, the message is timeless.
Of course, if you’re going to own an important classic of both science fiction and literary fiction, you may as well go the whole hog and take a look at the Folio Society Edition. These books are tricky to be truly critical about; the work inside is amazing so the shell that holds the story has been made just as special. Gorgeous cover, fantastic binding, etc. The Folio Society are the masters of making beautiful books. We get five colour illustrations from Sam Weber, each one well timed to perfectly compliment the story. They’re all incredibly appropriate and striking, though the one of the hound is perfectly chilling. We get an introduction from Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame author Michael Moorcock. He nails it, of course, it’s an excellent intro.
FAHRENHEIT 451 / AUTHOR: RAY BRADBURY / PUBLISHER: THE FOLIO SOCIETY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW