The Anonymous Blogger (link to the right) offered this discussion in response to my post on reading 1984 (see below, in italics). In it, he elaborates further on the subject of dystopian literature.
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Orwell's 1984 was the first known piece of literature about a Dystopian future (a theme found throughout much sci-fi nowadays). He was very much influenced by the rise of Communism (even more evident in his novel "Animal Farm", which is also a good read). It's very much about the dangers of GroupThink. The concept of "doublethink", in which you believe something to be true despite the fact you know it's wrong, is still relevant today (particular with the President's foreign policy).
Fahrenheit 451 has many similarities to 1984 (other than the use of numbers in the title), but I think Bradbury was trying to present the idea in a different way. People in 1984 were afraid of the government and did what they were told. People in Fahrenheit 451 WANTED to not think and just watch their wall-sized TVs and not concern themselves with new concepts.
Orwell's society is forced. Bradbury's is (mostly) voluntary. A version of the future closer to Bradbury's can be seen in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World".