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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

The Postman

Copyright 1985 by David Brin

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Very good (4/5)

Sadly, I can't remember when I read this book.

In this near-future Earth, civilisation has taken a battering. There have been tremendous problems, from wars and world-wide conflict to pollution and lethal viruses. Even so, American civilisation could have pulled itself together together and struggled on through. However, a peculiar breed of survivalists, led by the wrong man at the wrong time, caused the final collapse of the US government and the descent of the country into small isolated hamlets, each fearful of outsiders, while hordes of survivalists roam, killing and pillaging their across the states. Civilisation has lost, hard-won human rights discarded and a faith in progress thrown away: children no longer even know how to read.

Our hero, Gordon Krantz, is no longer a young man. He remembers the old world, his days at college and the promise that life once held. He's survived as a loner, he's surprised that he's survived so long. He's more surprised that, even in these tough times, he's still maintained his personal morality and his hope, though not belief, in a better future.

Still he's reached his personal bottom - he's been chased through the woods like a rabbit, he's been forced to abandon his personal belongings and most of his supplies. Then, lost in the woods, he finds and puts on the postman's leather jacket, and picks up the mailbag with the crumbling letters still inside, and his future, and the future of America, changes.

This is one of my favourite post-apocalypse novels. It's got Brin's magnificent story-telling. It's got a misunderstood hero, who doesn't know he's a hero. It's got a fight between good and evil. It's got deep questions, the big questions, what to eat today, what clothes to wear and how to maintain a civilised morality when civilisation has crumbled around you. It's got leather jackets, brave and tragic women and a strong message for putting aside the weapons of war and resisting the militarists - particularly topical today, I think.

I remember being irritated when I saw the movie (The Postman directed by Kevin Costner). It rather drastically changed the ending of the story. and to some extent the moral point of the novel. Here's a quote from the review on imdb: "one of the worst films to come out of 1997". However, I always rather liked the movie, albeit peeved at the ending, and nowadays the DVD has become one of my firm favourites, as should any movie in which Tom Petty appears.

On rereading the book this time around, I'm a bit put off by the novel's ending (rather than the movie's). It seems out of place. rather disconnected from the rest of the novel. On the subject of Tom Petty, I just had the pleasure of listening to "American Girl" on Virgin's internet radio. I'm very pleased to say that both "American Girl" and "The Postman" survive as classic, and still immensely enjoyable, works.

Loaded on the 30th November 2002.
Cover of The Postman
Cover art by John Jude Palencar

Reviews of other works by David Brin:
The Practice Effect
The Uplift Wars
Glory Season
Infinity's Shore
Heaven's Reach
Kiln People

Reviews of other works by David Brin and Gregory Benford:
Heart Of The Comet

Reviews of other works with covers by John Jude Palencar and Don Puckey:
Wild Seed