Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book Review: Farhrenheit 451 The Authorized Adaptation (Graphic Novel)

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 The Authorized Adaptation by Ray Bradbury (author) and Tim Hamilton (illustrator)

"Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn 'em to ashes, then burn the ashes."
- Guy Montag, Fahrenheit 451

Jobina and I took the kids to the Millenium Library in Winnipeg a week or so ago and picked up a few books. When I saw the literary classic Fahrenheit 451 in a graphic novel and authorized by the writer I was immediately intrigued. I've always been a big Ray Bradbury fan after reading a few of his books (Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles in high school. Bradbury is easily one of the greatest and most prolific American writers of the 19th century and his works are works of art. Comic books and graphic novels are often stigmatized as being of little literary value compared to books (especially the classics) so I was ready to see what a combination of classic book with graphic novel art would be like.

The story takes place in a dark dystopian future. The main character, Guy Montag is a firefighter, but instead of putting out fires the firefighters of this future start them. Books are illegal contraband and those who are caught with them find the firefighters coming to their house and burning the books (and often the houses) as well. Guy Montag does his job well but slowly begins to question his his role and beliefs in the society he is upholding. The book is fairly dark and has imagery which would not be appropriate for children. It explores themes of freedom, despair, authority, and to some extent faith. If you like dark stories you'd probably like it. Compared to the great comic book and graphic novel artists of this time, Hamilton's artwork is not nearly as detailed but his simple style seems to fit the book fairly well. I felt chilled, disturbed, entertained, and somewhat haunted by the end. And like most graphic novels or comics I have read I felt it was over too soon.

Do re-imagined and illustrated graphic novels of great literary works have their place? I think so. I'm am not so snobbish as to say that only the original is worth reading! Graphic novels can never replace the novels themselves but for for all their drawbacks they do attempt to courageously illustrate something that your mind has imagined - a brave things for any illustrator to do. Sometimes the illustrator gets it right (compared to your internal view of what things should look like), sometimes they get it wrong, and sometimes they surprise you with something completely different and superior to your own imagery and you feel delighted. I rate this book 3.8 ninja stars out of 5.

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