Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fahrenheit 451 Audible Audio Book Review

I suppose there's a small sense of irony that I'm reviewing a tale of burning books on audio; but I've always been a fan of audio books, especially when paired with a familiar (and friendly) voice. For Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's famed dystopian novel from 1953, Audible (the gold standard for audio books) reached out to Oscar-winning actor and noted activist Tim Robbins to voice one of the most important political narratives of the 20th century. The results are impressive, to say the least.

Fahrenheit 451 was written more than 60 years ago; yet its story seems to become more relevant with each passing year, like a fine bottle of wine. The word "prophetic" leaps to mind, especially in 2014 amidst an ever-growing Big Brother/George Orwell atmosphere. Back then, who could have imagined tracking people via a cell phone? Or giant corporations trading our personal information back and forth, like a barrel of oil or an ear of corn?

It all boils down to control, in some form or another. Bradbury wrote his book smack dab in the middle of McCarthyism, when mere words (or their inference) could ruin any man, brave or foolish enough to utter them. Fahrenheit 451 comes alive with the calming (yet still passionate) voice of Robbins. Five hours flies by (how often do you hear that?) as Robbins retells the story of "fireman" Guy Montag and his change of heart/evolution. I read the book back in high school; but truth be told, never really understood it at the time. What a difference almost three decades makes...

To be frank, I was worried about "staying in the moment" long enough to finish it without succumbing to e-mails, phone calls and text messages; but carved out most of the story in bed over two nights, and the final hour cooking in my kitchen. Imagine Andy Dufresne telling you a story: How could you not pay attention?

Robbins manages to "punch it up" at just the right moments, doing justice to Bradbury's prose (and then some.) He separates characters with ease, tackling each persona with unrivaled gusto. Clarisse, The Hound and even Guy's half-comatose wife take on new life (and in turn, importance.) The novel's surprise twist in the third act plays out like a summer blockbuster, before giving way to a conclusion that finds hope in the darkest of scenarios. You can literally feel the enthusiasm and excitement in Robbins' voice... a voice that doesn't necessarily jump around in tone (talk about even-keel.)

A day later, I found another classic (The Great Gatsby) also read by Robbins. I haven't started it yet; but if it helps shed visions of Leo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan from my head, I'm all in. Interest peaked? Why not sign up for a 30-day free trial on Audible, and get a FREE book (may I suggest Fahrenheit 451?)