by Ray Bradbury
When this novel was written, fifty one years ago, the world was only just recovering from World War 2, television was in its infancy and mass communication was just a twinkle in Murdoch's eye. Yet Bradbury describes with amazing prescience the disastrous potential of the new technologies to affect human society. He writes of a world where people rely on the 'family' that support them from the audio-visual walls of their living rooms (not unlike the way Neighbours has replaced the living community for many people) and where books are forbidden because of their tendency to create discontent.
Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which book paper catches fire and the novel's protagonist, Guy Montag, is a fireman whose job is not putting out fires but burning books. After a series of encounters with an ingénue, Guy begins to question his role and soon finds himself trying to save the books he is supposed to be destroying. But in a nightmare vision of 1984- type state control he is exposed and hunted like an animal. His pursuit by the unerring mechanical hound of the Fire Department, equipped with a lethal hypodermic bite, is the stuff of nightmares.
It's always interesting to read visions of the future in retrospect and there are some slightly quaint but quite accurate technological predictions - like the banks which are open all night and every night with robot tellers in attendance and the 'seashell' radio that fits in one ear.
It is a short book - 184 pages - and it hurtles along at such a pace that you could read it in an afternoon, yet it is a thought-provoking, poetic and uncannily prophetic novel.