Reviewed by Steven H Silver
David Brin's The Postman features Gordon Krantz, a loner trying to make his way from Minnesota to anywhere civilization still exists in a post holocaust North America. As Gordon avoids, and sometimes comes into, conflict with survivalists, he laments the complete lack of authority and responsibility in this post disaster world. The Postman opens with Krantz fleeing from a small band of these survivalists who have taken nearly everything he owns as he makes his way from Idaho into Oregon. When trying to ambush his attackers, Krantz comes across an old US mailtruck. Taking the dead mailman's uniform to replace his own torn clothes, Krantz grabs a couple of letters to read as he continues his search for civilization.
On his arrival in Pine View, the citizens welcome Krantz, believing him to be a real mailman. In order to gain their acceptance, Krantz claims to be an official of the Restored United States, sent west to establish a new postal route, and in so doing he begins to re-establish authority and responsibility throughout the devastated lands.
Even as others begin to look on Krantz as a symbol of the authority which has been missing since the disaster, Krantz continues to search for a real authority, knowing the truth behind his ruse as a mailman. This search eventually leads Krantz into contact with both Holnist survivalists and the Servants of the Cyclops. The Holnists believe that authority is solely based on the power to support one's desires well the Servants, like Krantz, believe that there is a civilized authority.
Throughout the novel, these two types of authority are juxtaposed against each other, yet Brin manages to examine a wider variety of issues. He looks at the role of technology in both our lives and our culture. Technology's effect on women, and vice versa, is an area which Brin particularly explores through Dena, a Servant of the Cyclops who was raised almost entirely after the war, yet retains a firm grasp on a love of civilization and learning.
Brin's characters are bopth believable and interesting. Unfortunately, he doesn't spend enough time with some of them, most notably, George Powhatan, who has managed to carve out a holding for himself which he has managed to defend against all comers. If Brin's survivalists are a little two-dimensional, they are offset by the knowledge that such men do exist and will quite likely be in similar positions if a disaster does cause the decline of civilization.
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