Sunday, October 19, 2014

Book Talk: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury
Book Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
Published: 1953 (Ballantine Books)
Pages: 159
Find it at: Amazon / Flipkart

Spoiler alert: This is also kind of a summary, not just a review.

They call it dystopian. I feel what Bradbury predicted might not be far from a potential possibility. A haunting tale of a future where 3D, televised 'families' are more important than the people you live with, where firemen are armed with kerosene and matches and light fire in houses where books are reported to be. They cannot remember a time when firemen used to put out fires and people like the young girl Clarisse, who dare to ask questions or spend time to 'think', are considered mad and unsuitable for society. The basic premise is that no one should ever be sad, and for that, everyone has to be ridden of things that make humans sad.

Guy Montag, a fireman with a wife (Mildred) devoted to her TV 'family', meets seventeen year old Clarisse and finds her strange because of the kind of questions she asked and how she made him think about things he hadn't thought about lately. When did he last smile? Was he happy? But soon, it becomes a routine when he meets her every evening for a few minutes as she walks along, an air of wonder and curiosity in her features, something that's so new to Guy that he feels sad just spying on her family next door. One day, he feels something's off and he never sees Clarisse again. Then there was another house reported where the firemen find an old woman clinging to her books, and when she refuses to leave them, Guy looks on horrified as his boss lets her light up her house herself, and dying in that fire inside.

That incident shakes him up and for the first time in years, he's craving for real company, but his wife doesn't understand his sadness and wants to stay with her TV family, his boss seems to know something, to understand this stage in a fireman's life, but is mean about it, the robot dog at the station seems to be growling at him more and more, and he's started hiding books in his own home. Soon enough, he realizes that he cannot live there anymore. There's the war coming and people are to busy driving rashly, staring into 3D people and screens, listening to talks with earpieces permanently stuck in their ears, looking at advertisements constantly running on billboards so people cannot pause to think for themselves. He soon turns into a Wanted man, and makes a run for his life.

A lot many things happen with Guy in this book, beginning with coming across Clarisse and getting a jolt out of the everyday desensitized living, to being hunted by the whole city and escaping into another world. He realizes he's not alone, but the power of the world overtaken by the craze of keeping everyone from thinking is too much and the rest are too small in number. Yet, they're hopeful. As the frenzied society comes to an end, these men, with memorized books and knowledge, armed with hope and ideas, set to rebuild the society, all of which has been wiped out by war. 

With a title that refers to the temperature at which paper burns, Fahrenheit 451 talks about books and censorship (because academic plain texts, I think, and user manuals were allowed) and the power of independent thought and ideas, things people are banned from indulging in. It's a good, short read, well described, although you might feel like it's become stagnant in between. It picks up pace, however, in the later half of the book. It's also been written in a way that made me wonder if there were perhaps printing errors, with phrases repeated, but that's how it is. It leaves the reader to ponder over what is happening even now. What makes me praise this book is the timing and the imagination. This was written in 1953, and what Bradbury imagined then seems much too possible right now. So what if we don't have radios plugged in the ears? We have headphones. We have more screens - LCD, computer, tablets, smartphones, etc - than books. If this situation of an imagined world would shake you up and make you slow down a little, be sure to read this book. If you still have the time to read, that is.

Some quotes from the book:
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there."

“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.” 

“We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.”

“The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are.” 

“Do you understand now why books are hated and feared? Because they reveal the pores on the face of life. The comfortable people want only the faces of the full moon, wax, faces without pores, hairless, expressionless.” 

“Most of us can't rush around, talk to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven't time, money or that many friends. The things you're looking for... are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book.” 


Friday, October 3, 2014

Review: Invisible by James Patterson

Title: Invisible
Author: James Patterson and David Ellis
Published: 2014 by Century
Pages: 399
Find it at: Flipkart / Amazon

My Rating: 5/5

Goodreads Blurb!
Everyone thinks Emmy Dockery is crazy. Obsessed with finding the link between hundreds of unsolved cases, Emmy has taken leave from her job as an FBI researcher. Now all she has are the newspaper clippings that wallpaper her bedroom, and her recurring nightmares of an all-consuming fire.

Not even Emmy's ex-boyfriend, field agent Harrison "Books" Bookman, will believe her that hundreds of kidnappings, rapes, and murders are all connected. That is, until Emmy finds a piece of evidence he can't afford to ignore. More murders are reported by the day--and they're all inexplicable. No motives, no murder weapons, no suspects. Could one person really be responsible for these unthinkable crimes?

INVISIBLE is James Patterson's scariest, most chilling stand-alone thriller yet.

My Thoughts!
I don’t exactly remember why I wanted this book. I already had a few James Patterson mysteries lying unread, but the blurb sparked something and I wanted to read this as well. It’s one of the best decisions I made, when it comes to book choices. Not only was the mystery well plotted and narrated, it was presented and created in a way that would make you hide under the covers, especially if you’d be reading this book at night. Emmy Dockery is a researcher with FBI, on temporary leave, but totally consumed by information about fires breaking out in different homes across the country, the victims charred to death, just like her twin sister Marta. She was in an accidental house fire in January, and no one but Emmy was convinced that she was murdered. When she tries getting the FBI’s help, her boss, also known as the Dick, ensures that she isn’t taken seriously, not until Emmy manages to get Books, her ex-fiancĂ© and ex-FBI agent, onto the case.



That’s when things gradually make sense and the team with minimum resources initially, study the data and try figuring out the serial killer, the one dangerous criminal who has killed more than seventy people across North America, and not very swiftly either. It’s a gradual chase, but let me tell you at the onset that it’s going to keep you hooked (for example, it took me a day and a half to complete it, forgoing sleep for hours and resuming it first thing in the morning). Be ready to be hoodwinked, both by the author as well as by the characters. The story catches pace gradually, introducing characters, but never goes away from the central plot. As the events unfold one by one, you are left grappling with facts and clinging on to someone as the killer, but it only gets worse, especially in the later half of the book. This book will make your hearts beat faster, make you breathless with fear and you’d probably mutter stuff like ‘no, shit!!’ or ‘ohmygod! How did that happen?’ or perhaps be speechless, but feel goosebumpy nevertheless. I’d give it a full star rating just for this effect; it’s been done so brilliantly.

The writing is fun: it’s quirky, yet serious. The characters seemed perfect in all their glory and flaws. I liked Emmy a lot, even though she’s been shown as someone with trust issues or thinking a bit too independently. But then, that’s who she is, and this story is about how she wants to find her sister’s killer, along with hundreds of other victims. It’s about facing so many obstacles, getting rejected, crushed, defeated numerous times, but with a little support and marvellous conviction that she’s right, Emmy goes forward even when she’s all alone. Other characters have their own stories as well, but thankfully those don’t interfere with the plot. I loved this book: for having a gut-wrenching, heart-racing, mind-blowing mystery, for being presented in a way that you wouldn’t know what’s coming in the next page, for making your jaw drop and crying out loud when you discover the killer and make sense of the story, for making you feel like calling up James Patterson and demand a longer explanation in the end. Seriously, I wish the end could have been wrapped up better, but I suspect this is a plot in itself – to make the reader go back and read the book again!

I’d recommend this book to every mystery lover but only to those who’re used to, or are ready to read gruesome details and gory murders. It’s not an easy book to digest, what with perfect detailing as to how the killer tortured his victims. So I’d ask the soft-hearted to be careful, but if you ever get the heart, read it! It’s brilliant.

“You’re your own worst enemy, Marta always said to me. You don’t need anyone to torment you because you do it to yourself.”

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

“You must do today what nobody else will do, so tomorrow you can accomplish what others can’t.” 

Thank you Random House publishers for this book! :)

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