Monday, August 14, 2006

06.26 The Postman by David Brin

The Postman (1985) by David Brin
Pbk., Bantam, 321 pp.

Another book in the continuation of my journey in the post apocalyptic science fiction canon. You may remember The Postman as a universally panned 1997 movie starring Kevin Costner. I never saw it but apparently the movie departs substantially from this book.

The hero of the novel is a young drifter, who is traveling westward from Minnesota, stopping in small postwar frontier type communities and exchanging his skills doing small skits for food and shelter. One day he is ambushed by some bandits and ends up fleeing into the bush with nothing on his back but his clothes. He comes across an abandoned jeep in the bush which has the clothes and bag of a postman. He takes the gear only as new clothing but the next town he stops at the people believe he really is carrying mail.

The man realizes that this really is a good scam, and he starts spinning a tale of how a Restored United States government is forming in the East. The townsfolk are given hope and treat him with respect. The Postman convinces himself that he is only pulling the scam for his own survival, but he still agrees to take people's mail and starts to deliver it along to towns as he moves in to Oregon.

He starts to hear about a town where technology is being preserved and refurbished by something called Cyclops. This turns out to be one of the last surviving artificial intelligence supercomputers from before the war. It seems to be trying to rebuild a society by directing people's actions in a logical manner. Arrayed against these quiet towns is an ever growing army of what are called Survivalists. These are remnant armies of prewar survival fanatics whose philosophy is misogyny and subjugation.

As you might expect there comes an ultimate conflict between the rebuilders and the destroyers in which our hero plays a major role. The novel is obviously concerned in a huge way with symbolism -- the Postman as a symbol of government, technology as a symbol of society, etc.

I liked this book and it was a nice easy read. However, I felt like the author tried to do too much and make too many "points". Even in a crazy science-fiction book the ending was kind of over-the-top and deus ex machina.


Crumbolst said...

The best part about the movie was Tom Petty as protector of the dam. And I remember wishing Clint Eastwood had directed and starred in it.

I loved the general premise, though. I'm doing to keep my eyes peeled for a copy of the book.

Buzby said...

Maybe you should switch to reading books that formed the basis of Kevin Costner movies. I've heard that Message in a Bottle is particularly good.