For the love of books: Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Classic Literature, Dystopian, Sci-Fi

Fahrenheit 451 foresees a world in which books are outlawed and TV rules over all. In the midst of all this emerges an unlikely hero: Guy Montag. A ‘fireman’, whose job is in fact to start fires rather than put them out, Montag meets a young girl who plants a seed in his mind that changes his life; a seed of questioning. Inspired by her curiosity about everything around her, the fireman begins to question his life, too, until he slowly – and then quite suddenly – realises that the society he lives in is deluded and utterly ignorant. From this epiphany, he resolves to change things, with drastic results.

I’m not a huge fan of science fiction novels, and I’m always somewhat apprehensive about reading a book that’s considered a classic. But I found 451‘s storyline intriguing, and although I sometimes struggled to visualise aspects of the world that Bradbury creates, the future he portrays is convincing. The book is perfectly readable and compelling, and its short length – only 211 pages – prevent it from being at all intimidating. The characters are vivid and credible, if not always likeable, and the narrative moves quickly. Above all, this book is thought-provoking, posing questions about authoritarianism and submission, the importance of culture, and the reliability and value of books. 451 reflects the future for our society if we continue as we do. The story is eery because, after 50 years, it’s still relevant – we still have the same questions, the same concerns about our lifestyles and our future.

What makes this novel so special is that it reminds you why books are so great; why books are important, vital even, to society. Despite making a strong case for how books can destroy, deceive, disorient, this only makes the overall effect stronger. I love this book for providing me with an escape, without pushing it on me, and for gently reminding me why I love books. After finishing 451, I couldn’t wait to devour another novel.

However, I was left a little unsatisfied by the end. Although the book ends powerfully, there was no mention of the girl Montag meets at the beginning, and I felt that a mention of her was important the bring the book full circle – especially as she doesn’t feature much in book, despite having huge impact on Montag.

Overall, 451 is enjoyable, though-provoking, and well-written; I would definitely recommend it.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAAAA (9)

Writing: AAAAAAAAA (9)

Pace: Quick

Buy at Waterstones (UK)

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Buy at Barnes & Noble (US)

Buy on Amazon (US)


Diary in a dark world: Never Let Me Go – By Kazuo Ishiguro

Dystopian, Fictional Memoir, Romance, Sci-Fi

I was around two-thirds of the way through Frankenstein when I realised I had barely read in a week. I’d enjoyed the book up until halfway, at which point I often found myself re-reading the same paragraphs, forcing myself to go on. I was in a rut. Whether this was due to the book or my state of mind I’m not sure, but I wanted to get out of it. Looking up at my stack of books for inspiration, I realised almost immediately what I should read. I’d bought Never Let Me Go a while ago after hearing about the book and the even more popular film. It’d been sitting on my shelf for a while, and for no particular reason, I had never got around to reading it.

Never Let Me Go is set in a darkly distorted version of our present – too familiar to be dystopian, but not quite true-to-life enough to be realistic fiction. The book centres on three students’ childhood in a picturesque boarding school and their lives after leaving, following their friendships and romances. Written from the near future, the narrative meanders spontaneously as Kathy H, the narrator, recalls memories from her past. It reminds me of a diary – descriptive, but not boring; somewhat digressive, with one anecdote leading on to the next, but not difficult to follow. Although it’s hard to put my finger on how, the book is definitely well written whilst also remaining highly readable – a rare feat.

Before starting the book, I read the cover’s review excerpts; one described the novel’s subject as ‘ourselves, seen through a glass, darkly.’ (Margaret Atwood, When I began reading, however, I was confused – I struggled to recognise any of our society reflected in the book’s skewed world. It was only as more details were revealed, near the end of the book, that the setting stopped being a distant horrific fantasy, but became conceivable, something that I could imagine happening. I was left with a scary thought, a dismal vision for the world’s future.

Overall, Never Let Me Go is a fantastic book – readable, well-written, and a familiar narrative with thought-provoking themes running beneath the surface. I would recommend the book to those who enjoy books largely about relationships; it is also great for people who like dark, somewhat dystopian stories.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAAA (8)

Writing: AAAAAAAA (7)

Pace: Slow/Medium

Buy at Waterstones (UK)

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Buy on Amazon (US)

The Maze Runner (Book 1) – By James Dashner

Dystopian, Romance, Sci-Fi

The premise of The Maze Runner is complicated, but well-established: Thomas wakes up in a dark elevator, which eventually opens in a courtyard with dozens of teenage boys staring accusingly at him. He can’t remember his former life or why he was there, and is utterly confused about the other boys’ acceptance of their adversity. Even more perplexing is his innate attraction to becoming a runner – a dangerous job that involves running around The Maze to map it, in the hopes of finding an escape from their predicament. When Gally takes an instant dislike to Thomas, claiming he had seen him before, the others become suspicious and start to question the new boy’s innocence; as uncertainty and unrest propagate, blame is laid on Thomas, who many see as the trigger, the root of all their problems.

After seeing the film (shamefully, I often see the film before I read the book when it comes to YA), I was worried I’d find the book boring. But, although it took away from the suspense, I enjoyed it nonetheless – the plot and setting are what really made it. Dashner’s extensive ‘world-building’ and engrossing plot kept me reading when I otherwise would have given up long before – because apart from these attributes, it wasn’t a great book. Concise chapters are employed to maintain interest and anticipation, which, although effective, become tiresome and often feel forced. Additionally, suspense is sometimes unnecessarily (and clumsily) re-built at the end of a chapter:

“And then something rounded the corner… Something unspeakable. A Griever.”

Suspense had already been built – and with more skill – earlier on when the Grievers (fictional mechanical monsters) were approaching; Dashner’s by now familiar two-word sentences were redundant, even injurious. Apart from Thomas, who is somewhat credible and interesting, and offers an insight into a typical teenage boy’s mind, the characters are largely two-dimensional, underdeveloped and cliche: there isn’t enough opportunity for Teresa to be fleshed out, and I found sympathising with Chuck difficult because of his personality’s lack of substance and appeal.

As a whole, The Maze Runner has a great, engrossing plot and intriguing setting, but is clunkily (see what I did there? – you’ll know what i’m referencing if you’ve read it) written. For someone like me who enjoys character- over plot-driven books, it’s disappointing. However, I think you’d enjoy it if you like Hunger Games-esque books and a lightning-fast pace.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAA (7)

Writing: AAAA (4)

Pace: Fast

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Buy at Waterstones

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Catalyst – By Helena Coggan

Dystopian, Sci-Fi

Catalyst is about a world that is divided between the magically Gifted and the non-magical Ashkind. The protagonist, Rose Elmsworth, is a Gifted, with a dangerous secret about her identity. When an old enemy of her father threatens to reveal her secret, she must betray her loved ones in order to protect them.

Every detail in Catalyst has been intricately thought out; the sheer credulity alone struck me as quite spectacular, rivalling hugely popular trilogies like Divergent and The Hunger Games. However, at times, I felt the characters fell flat, and I lost interest in them. Nonetheless, I always managed to be drawn into the story in some way, and by the end I was desperate for a sequel.

I would recommend this book for people who like sci-fi, fantasy or dystopian books, as it occupies all of these genres. It’s a fairly light read on terms of readability,which is expected from a YA book. This book is suitable for 11-year-olds and older.

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAA

Writing: AAAAAAA

Pace: Medium/Fast