Totalitarian control. Censorship. Loss of Freedom. All of these things are as much of a concern in 2017 as they were decades ago. Since Trump entered office, Orwell’s 1984 has become a bestseller once again. There are growing concerns about government control, “Big Brother” and spying to name a few. However, while 1984 has been highlighted in North America’s conscious, there is yet another perspective that should be considered: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. While not quite as popular as Orwell, Bradbury makes excellent observations about Western Society’s possible downfall.
The world of Fahrenheit 451 is one of entertainment- parlour families shown on large screens in individual’s houses that one can interact with, radio, and the pastime of driving extremely fast for the fun of it. The average citizen has been amused into submission. They have no interest in books. It happened slowly- universities gradually lost all enrolment and therefore closed; schools became places to learn how things operate- not why. Individuals gradually become submissive and they were happy to abide by the illegality of books as they continued to be increasingly entertained. At least, most citizens were.
Guy Montag is a fireman- not a person who extinguishes fires- a person who creates fires largely for the purpose to destroy books and the places that house them. One day he meets 17 year old Clarrise McClellan who is so peculiar she makes Guy question his worldview- especially his definition of happiness and his career choice. He brings these questions home and to work which makes his peers suspicious. His superior, Captain Beatty, comes to comfort him in his doubts about being a fireman – to promote happiness, since books cause unease and unrest in people. Surely they are the detriment to people’s happiness and must be destroyed at all costs. But Montag wonders, how can that be true since his wife tried to take her own life with sleeping pills one night? Surely, there must be a reason why some risk their lives to protect books- like one lady he himself helped burn.
As I read through Fahrenheit 451 I couldn’t help but apply the themes to my own life. I have an entertainment machine in the palm of my hand-my smartphone- and I often use it for mindless dribble more than for educating myself. I look at the party culture of my generation and the inability many of my peers have to think about even the short term future and it saddens me. As I gain encouragement from Bradbury and other writers, I have been changing what I do in my spare moments- listening to audio books in the commute to and from work, taking classes, and so forth. Let’s not be made passive by entertainment, but use leisure for building us up.
Agatha Christie is one of the world’s bestselling novelists thanks to her 66 detective novels. According to her website, she has only been outsold by Shakespeare and the bible. Having never read an Agatha Christie novel before, I decided to read And Then There Were None, which is considered to be one of her best books. This is not just hearsay: And Then There Were None is listed on the Wikipedia List of Best Selling Books; it has an estimated $100 million in sales since it was published in 1939, and it remains in print today, with a new hardcover copy having been published in the fall.
And Then There Were None is the story of ten strangers with vastly different backgrounds who are all invited to stay at an island. After arriving, the guests are informed that their host and hostess are delayed; it’s around that point that they realize they were all invited under differing and rather mysterious circumstances. Then the guests start dying one by one. The first death can be explained as a suicide. But by the third death, there can be only one explanation: murder. After a thorough search of the island, the guests realize that they are the only ones present, which means one of their party is the murderer! How will the innocent guests figure out who the culprit is before they’re all dead?
While And Then There Were None is a little bit dated in its writing style, I can easily see why it remains the world’s best selling mystery novel. It is a bit light on the characterization, but I found that doesn’t really matter because And Then There Were None is all about the plot. It is an excellent mystery that will keep you guessing right to the end!
One day while walking by the shelves at the Brodie Resource Library, I noticed a series of books that instantly brought me back to my early reading days…………my very early reading days. While I grew up reading Encyclopedia Brown and choose Your Own Adventure books and watching Scooby Doo (the good Scooby Doo shows, not the ones with Scrappy Doo), there was nothing quite like the Hardy Boys. These dudes brought mystery solving to brand new level for me at the time. Sure, Encyclopedia Brown would solve the mystery of the “missing change” or the “flat bike tire”, but the Hardy Brothers really solved the tough mysteries and put themselves in danger doing it (I’m talking finding the buried treasure tough!). In early childhood, I really thought that the Hardys were the coolest guys out there and still today they are right up there in my book.
So, back to my story. Out of pure spontaneity, I decided to grab the first book in the series “The Tower Treasure” just to read for a laugh. Turns out, I still love these books. They took me back and made me realize why I love mystery books, so much. The stories are great in a way that take the reader to a time of small town generosity and community camaraderie. The foulest language you read is “golly” and intentions are nothing but the best (that is, except for some select few and the criminals). For those of you who do not know who the Hardy boys are; they are teenage brothers, Frank and Joe Hardy who live in the town Bayport and spend their time attempting to solve mysteries. It is assumed that thrill of being amateur detectives is a byproduct of the exploits of their famous private detective father Fenton Hardy. In each book, the boys find themselves in the middle of an intriguing mystery that captivates the reader. I really loved the early Hardy Boys Mysteries at the time and while I have only recently reread one in a series of many, I feel I can safely recommend these books to basically anyone, especially if you a have a child entering the stages of reading paperbacks. Next time I feel nostalgic, maybe I’ll grab some older Archie Comics to take me back or watch some late 70’s Scooby Doo, but not ones with Scrappy Doo in them (Man, that dude is the most annoying character ever).
When I first laid eyes on this book I was absolutely delighted. It seems that no matter which way you turn these days – at the local bookstore or the cinema, you’re confronted with no end of gruesome variations on the age old theme of vampires, zombies and the paranormal. A few of the more recent installments have been a little quirkier than others, and I think the totally unabashed audacity of tampering with that which has become sacred is nothing short of brilliant!
Grahame-Smith leaves Austen’s work largely intact, with but a few variations to give it all a bit of a twist. One of the funniest parts would have to be Charlotte Lucas’s transmogrification into a zombie, which seems to go completely unnoticed by everyone except Miss Elizabeth Bennett. The random sexual innuendos between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth also add a humour impossible in the classic. All the original characters are here, including the dithering Mr. Bingley, the angelic Jane, the neurotic Mrs. Bennett and her long suffering husband. Wickham truly gets what he deserves in the end and Lady Catherine’s skills as a zombie slayer are nothing short of astounding.
I’m sure some readers will take great offence at what Grahame-Smith has done, exclaiming “sacrilege” and “blasphemy”, but if you can manage to detach yourself from the original and view his adaptation as something entirely new, I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I did. The inclusion of the readers’ discussion guide at the end is a nice touch, but try not to read it until after you’ve finished the book. Otherwise you will be too much in the know, and the potential shock factor will be lost.