Great Hugo Readthrough: 1954 Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

First off: I’m changing the name to the Great Hugo Readthrough. While it is inspired by Tor.com’s amazing series rereads, it’s different enough that I feel I should call it something else.


First Time/ Reread: Reread
Acquired: Already owned.

Other Nominees:
Arthur C. Clarke: Childhood’s End
Hal Clement: Mission of Gravity
Isaac Asimov: Caves of Steel
Theodore Sturgeon: More than Human

Background: Hey, look, another Retro Hugo! This is the last of them for now, though the 1939 Retro Hugos are being voted on this year. This book has won numerous awards and acclaim over the years, and is generally acclaimed as one of the greatest novels about censorship ever written.

Synopsis: It’s a dystopian future strongly reminiscent of Brave New World in some ways, with books banned and “firemen” who enforce that law by burning said books. One “fireman”, Guy Montag starts growing dissatisfied with his job, and… You’ve all read it, probably for school.

Verdict: Does it deserve the Retro Hugo? You know what? I’m going to say no. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great book, and I love reading Ray Bradbury, but I would have preferred almost any of the other books on this list. Childhood’s End is one of Clarke’s greatest works, Mission of Gravity is one of the most memorable science fiction worlds ever created, and Caves of Steel really popularized and kicked off a whole subgenre. More than Human is one of the best of the telepathy related science fiction novels that used to be everywhere, and an amazing novel, but I do prefer Fahrenheit 451. Fahrenheit 451 just feels weak to me compared to so much of Bradbury’s other works. Plus, given Bradbury’s views on science fiction, it feels kinda weird giving him a Hugo. (I know, I should judge books separately from their authors, but…) I just plain don’t like Guy Montag much, either. He feels like he’s just driven on by events, rather than pushing against them. Eh. It is a colossal literary influence on countless people, so I’m not surprised at its win. Maybe I’ve just read it often enough that I’ve grown burnt out on it.

Trivia:
The actual autoignition point of paper can be anywhere between 424–475 °F. It all depends on the composition, thickness, time, density, etc.

<Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man
1955: Mark Clifton and Frank Riley’s They’d Rather Be Right>

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