Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 book cover

A dystopian novel where firemen burn books instead of putting out fires

“Fahrenheit 451 – the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns…” is the tagline for this classic, best-selling book by Ray Bradbury. In this future, dystopian land, firemen burn books instead of put out fires. This short novel is often included in many of the “best fiction” lists out there. It has also been targeted for banning/censorship.

I’d place this book, alongside 1984 and Brave New World, as the founding trinity of dystopian novels. Fahrenheit 451 has elements of both. It’s dark, but not nearly as dark as Orwell – and has some of the entertain-them-to-death feel as Huxley’s satire.


Censorship – This is a book about literal book burning, written during the era of the communist scare and Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee. In this future world, knowledge is dangerous (especially books). Firemen go out and burn all the books they can find.

Population control through mass media – Similarly to Brave New World, the public is kept busy with sensationalist media and constant preoccupation with technology. If you keep people busy and their minds occupied, they will have no reason to want to read or even think on their own.


I liked this book and can see why it is often listed by people as a must read book. It’s not long at all and is an easy read. I find it highly ironic that a book which shows the dangers of censorship has been targeted and people have attempted to have it banned. I must say that a future like this would be absolute hell for introverts like myself.

You can find the book on Amazon here. Wiki link is here.


1984 – George Orwell

george orwell 1984 novel

A dystopian novel about a future where Big Brother is always watching

Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in 1949 by the author George Orwell, is possibly the definitive dystopian novel. It is a classic, iconic work of literature and many of the words and phrases that Orwell created in this book have become part of our language. If a government or organization is referred to as Orwellian, it means that the thing is sinister, deceptive, manipulative, authoritarian, and/or totalitarian. 1984 is often compared to Brave New World, which was published 17 years earlier.


Government Surveillance – “Big Brother is Watching” posters are everywhere, but it isn’t just a show for intimidation, it’s a fact for those in the Party. The issues and concerns about privacy and government intrusion are even more pressing in our day with the controversial NSA surveillance of citizens.

Authoritarianism – Orwell takes what he’s learned about dictatorships and authoritarian governments, from the fascism of Nazi Germany to the communism of Soviet Russia, and imagines what those could become in the future with the benefit of advanced technology. He shows how authoritarian and totalitarian governments are strikingly similar, even though they may technically come from opposite ideological sides of the political spectrum. The goal is still the same – power and control.

Social Class Hierarchy – The population in the novel is divided into 3 categories and it is explained later in the novel how this structure has been fairly consistent throughout human history since the agricultural revolution. Class struggles are discussed and implied throughout the book.
1. The Inner Party: the elite, comprising a very small percentage of the population
2. The Outer Party: a larger group that encompasses the rest of the official political party members, but still small compared to the overall population (approx 10-15%)
3. The Proletariat: the rest of the population (approx 85%), largely uneducated and often ignored by the Party. Usually referred to as “proles.”

Newspeak – A language created by the Party with the purpose of simplifying and condensing the English language in such a way as to promote their ideology and control. The media is tightly controlled by the party and is filled with propaganda. The Party works around the clock at editing and rewriting history, employing newspeak terms like “doublethink” to distort reality and maintain control over the population.


In many ways, I prefer this book over Brave New World. While BNW is more of a satire or parody, 1984 is much more detailed and developed in its plot and characters. 1984 is darker and haunting (even creepy). Orwell is a first-class writer and I think if you enjoy dystopian novels, you’ll really appreciate this book. This is an important book to read, both for enlightenment and as a cautionary tale of how power corrupts people and governments.

You can find the book on Amazon here. Here’s a link to the Wiki page for this book.

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

book cover aldous huxley brave new world

A dystopian novel about an “ideal” society gone wrong

Dystopian books and movies are very common now, but that wasn’t the case when Aldous Huxley published Brave New World in 1932. The author imagines what a futuristic society could be like where science has taken a strange turn and humans are genetically modified and conditioned to fit into pre-determined roles in society. It is a profound book considering the time it was written, prior to WWII, with fascism, communism, and other authoritarian governments on the rise. This book pokes at those governments and also people with utopian beliefs about capitalism, consumption, and materialism.

I found the following G.K. Chesterton quote interesting. It is from his review of the book.

After the Age of Utopias came what we may call the American Age, lasting as long as the Boom. Men like Ford or Mond seemed to many to have solved the social riddle and made capitalism the common good. But it was not native to us; it went with a buoyant, not to say blatant optimism, which is not our negligent or negative optimism. Much more than Victorian righteousness, or even Victorian self-righteousness, that optimism has driven people into pessimism. For the Slump brought even more disillusionment than the War. A new bitterness, and a new bewilderment, ran through all social life, and was reflected in all literature and art. It was contemptuous, not only of the old Capitalism, but of the old Socialism. Brave New World is more of a revolution against Utopia than against Victoria.

G.K. Chesterton, The Illustrated London News, 4 May 1935

Science fiction and fantasy genres can take a big gamble when trying to predict future technological advances. While some parts of the book aren’t possible based on what we know now about science, other parts are chilling at how accurate Huxley was in his predictions. He also had a clear grasp of how propaganda can be used to control the population. It’s the same basic blueprint that all dictators use.


Nature vs Nurture – while the science isn’t 100% accurate in this book, the author does do a good job of highlighting the different ways that our genetics and environment affect how we develop and interact in society.

Freedom vs Security – what is the most important thing in society? In the “Community, Identity, Stability” slogan of the futuristic world government, security and stability come at the cost of a loss of freedom. In a technical sense, people are still able to make choices, but most of their lives have been decided for them.

Hedonism – is true happiness found in the pursuit of the maximum amount of pleasure? Is the goal of life to be constantly stimulated in every way, without time to think, reflect, or re-evaluate what we’re doing or why we’re doing it? This book is at least partly a satirical take on the promise of utopia through materialism and capitalism.


I liked this book more than I thought I would. It’s an easy read. The main suggestion I have is that it’s best to read this book in a more lighthearted manner. It is poking fun at a few things that people at that time were claiming to be the next savior of humanity – socialism, capitalism, hedonism and even science. But it also rings true in our era as we are still grappling with these questions and issues.

On the negative side, there are some plot holes and lack of character development that may annoy some readers. My biggest complaint is the ending. I was disappointed that he chose to end the book the way he did.

Overall, I think this is an interesting book and definitely recommend it.

Find the book on Amazon here.

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

cormac mccarthy the road book cover

It doesn’t get more dystopian than this Pulitzer Prize winner

If you’re looking for a dark novel that you just can’t put down, this is it. I don’t know how else to describe it other than to say that this book is haunting. It might take a bit to adjust to the author’s writing style, lack of punctuation, and dialog flow, but don’t give up because of that.

Setting and Themes

The Road is a true post-apocalyptic novel. Very little information is given on what happened, who the characters are, or where exactly they are. If you find that confusing, please understand it is purposeful. It is a purposely dark book to contrast with the father and son dynamic. The book explores both the dark and light side of humanity. Our capacity for unmentionable horrors and deep love.


I’m going to cut this review short. I feel like saying any more about the book will actually make it more confusing and possibly tip those on the fence toward not checking it out. It is dark. Really dark in certain parts. But at the same time, I just couldn’t put it down. There is something really special there between the father and son. It connects with me as a father in ways that I can’t quite explain.

If you like dystopian, post-apocalyptic novels and/or don’t mind taking a walk down the dark corridors of humanity, I think it’s safe to say that you’ll enjoy this book. While this, like East of Eden, is not my preferred style for a novel, I do appreciate the incredible talent it takes to write something like this. I haven’t seen the film adaptation, but I can vouch for the book.

Here’s a link to The Road on Amazon.