Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Postman

David Brin's The Postman tells the story of Gordon Krantz, a man who finds himself still struggling for survival some sixteen years after nuclear war has almost completely destroyed the United States. Luckily for him, Krantz had been a bright student before his school days so suddenly ended forever at the age of sixteen, and he remembered enough Shakespeare and other classic literature to be able to earn his food and shelter as a traveling entertainer as he made his way westward from Minnesota.

But Krantz knew that his survival always depended on his ability to avoid bands of murdering bandits or sudden death at the hands of Mother Nature. One day his luck ran out. After an encounter with bandits left him with little more than the clothes on his back and in desperate need of shelter to avoid freezing to death, Krantz stumbled upon an old post office jeep, complete with the driver's remains. In order not to freeze, he clothed himself in the heavier clothing of the driver for the night and continued to wear the old uniform the next day when he left the jeep's shelter.

Much to Krantz's surprise, the next group of people he encountered was joyful to be hosting a mail carrier, someone they never expected to see again after having lived through sixteen years of isolation and precarious survival. They insisted on sharing past-life memories and stories about the mailmen they remembered from childhood and Krantz did not have the heart to tell them that he was a fraud. But, fraud or not, Krantz realized that he could easily acquire food and shelter by pretending to be a postal inspector sent by the "Reformed United States" to set up post offices throughout the state of Oregon. He justified his lies by telling himself that he was offering hope and inspiration to people who probably needed those things for their long term survival almost as badly as they needed food and shelter.

As word spread throughout the region, Krantz was soon to learn that the hope he offered created both opportunity and risk for the people who heard his story. For sixteen years those people had managed to survive, but they feared a large group of survivalist refugees from the past who intended to take what they had and make them into little more than slaves. Suddenly, with knowledge that the "Restored United States" would one day be there to help them, people were almost anxious to confront their vicious enemy. Only Krantz knew the truth, and he dared not steal the hope that these people embraced so desperately.

The Postman offers another doomsday scenario, this one a little more hopeful than most. It illustrates how a man who believes in ideals and morality can make a critical difference if only he has the courage and near foolishness to tackle what seems like an impossible task. Krantz wanted to give up but he could not abandon the people who had embraced "the postman."

I suspect that many people, like me, have not read David Brin's novel because of exposure to Kevin Costner's rather lame movie of the same name. Although the movie was based on Brin's book, rest assured that that is where the resemblance begins and ends.

Rated at: 3.0

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