By Ray Bradbury
I'm a big Ray Bradbury fan. Fahrenheit 451 is one of my favorite books. The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man are excellent. Something Wicked This Way Comes is another one of his most famous, classic works. But I didn't really like it. Bradbury generally reads fast, but it took me forever to get through this book.
First, the good points: there are some great concepts here. This is Bradbury's horror masterpiece, and he uses some of the best plot points and atmosphere you'll ever see in the horror genre. Like Neil Gaiman, he infuses his stories with ancient cultural myths that sound authoritative because they're partially true. Like on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he juxtaposes a normal town with horrible elements, and uses adolescence as a metaphor for uncertainty and fear of the unknown. Just the fact that all my references here are from people working forty years after this book shows you how original some of Bradbury's ideas were.
The entire circus motif was used excellently. The carousel that can age people younger or older is the key fantasy element here, and it's a really cool concept. All of the circus characters are fleshed out, creepy, and easy to visualize. I didn't really care much for the two young protaganists, since they seemed a little to ordinary and not nearly endearing enough. But Will's father, the library janitor, was a very likeable hero. (Scenes of the adult doing monster research in a library at night to help the kids really evoked Buffy for me.)
But every good science fiction writer has great concepts as his strength. Bradbury is unique because he also has a second extraordinary skill, for poetic language. It's not just the facts here, but rather a poetry volume of exquisitely crafted individual sentences. In each of Bradbury's books, there are enough soul-stirring, poignant quotes to make me want to recite them aloud to stir up a crowd.
This fluid, vivid language is usually what draws me
to Bradbury. But I think here it turned me off. It was just too much.
Several parts of the plot were hard to follow, which was particularly
disappointing since not much really happened in the book. It also seemed
to move slower than his other works I've read, because each description
was drawn out and emphasized for its enriching detail. Every other sentence
was a simile or metaphor. Each of them probably would have worked on
their own, but together they were too much. I finished the book feeling
that Bradbury had crossed some intangible threshold from vivid detail
and engaging prose to overwrought, self-righteous virtuoisty. If you
need a good novel, try Fahrenheit 451.