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The Postman
David Brin
Bantam Books, 321 pages

The Postman
David Brin
David Brin is a scientist and SF author who has won three Hugo Awards, two for Best Novel. His 1989 thriller Earth foresaw both global warming and the World Wide Web. A movie with Kevin Costner was loosely based on The Postman and Startide Rising is in pre-production. Brin's non-fiction book -- The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? -- deals with threats to openness and liberty in the new wired-age. His latest novel, Foundation's Triumph, brings to a grand finale Isaac Asimov's famed Foundation Universe. David is heavily involved in efforts to help use SF to benefit younger readers -- Webs of Wonder.

David Brin Website
ISFDB Bibliography
The Good and the Bad: Outlines of Tomorrow (Essay)
Brin Bibliography
The New Meme (Essay)
David Brin Tribute Page
David Brin Tribute Page

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Thomas Myer

Brin's novel, The Postman, first published in 1985, is about the power of myth in the lives of otherwise ordinary folk. Myth, as nebulous as the all-seeing eye of Odin, as widespread as the belief in the cleaning power of certain detergents, as pedestrian as Elvis sightings. Myth holds us all together, with all its tangents and fringes.

In Brin's future, myth does not involve gods and 10-year sieges at Troy, or fantastic creatures, but centers around a simple uniform, and what it represents in the minds of those who have survived World War III.

Gordon, a traveling minnesinger, a post-apocalyptic troubadour, out of sheer desire to stay warm, dons the uniform of a long-dead postal employee, and makes a quick-change clothes-make-the-man transition from ordinary bloke to living breathing symbol of What Once Was: a great nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.

Although this sentiment seems quaint -- please, we have electronic mail, digital pagers, and faxes, fer pete's sake -- think on this: if the day comes when all the good guys and bad guys start tossing bombs at each other, and the electromagnetic pulses wipe out the Net (plus anything else solid-state), then we're SOL when it comes to communicating with anyone more than a day's walk away.

At that point, the messages have to go the hard way, on horseback or on foot, through hail, and sleet, maybe even a couple of survivalist cannibals who love to add human ears to their necklaces.

Brin slathers a sober and hard-edged landscape at one turn, and in the next pinpoints with pixel clarity the humanity all jumbled up in the epic action. There are no mutant cockroaches or other absurdities. We are in the Oregon mountains, crawling through bracken, or hiding in the snowdrifts because a sniper has pinned us down. On every page we see the dirty, lined, broken faces of hardscrabble existence, but we also see them light up at the simple gesture of receiving a piece of mail from a long-lost loved one. And we see mythopoesis right in our faces, à la Brin:

Gordon smiled. He held up the bundle in his hand and touched his cap with the other.
"Good evening, Mizz Horton. It's a lovely night, yes? By the way, I happen to have a letter here for you, from a Mr. Jim Horton, of Pine View, Oregon....He gave it to me twelve days ago...."
The people on the parapet all seemed to be talking at once. There were sudden motions and excited shouts. Gordon cupped his ear to listen to the woman's amazed exclamation, and had to raise his voice to be heard.
"Yes, ma'am. He seemed to be quite well. I'm afraid that's all I have on this trip. But I'll be glad to carry your reply to your brother on my way back, after I finish my circuit down in the valley."
He stepped forward, closer to the light. "One thing though, ma'am. Mr. Horton didn't have enough postage back in Pine View, so I'm going to have to ask you for ten dollars...C.O.D."
The crowd roared.
Next to the glaring lantern the figure of the Mayor turned left and right, waving his arms and shouting. But nothing he said was heard as the gate swung open and people poured out into the night. They surrounded Gordon, a tight press of hot-faced, excited men, women, children. Some limped. Others bore livid scars or rasped in tuberculin heaviness. And yet at that moment the pain of living seemed as nothing next to a glow of sudden faith.

This novel overtook me with its prose, its story, its epic moments, its main character. Brin's writing is sinewy, as clear and hard as a diamond, and as sweeping as Shakespeare's Henry V.

'Nuff said.

Copyright © 1997 by Thomas Myer

Tom lives deepinahearta Texas. He used to drive an avocado green 1972 Ford Maverick complete with dented driver's side door and black vinyl upholstery. His wife made him get rid of it as part of the pre-nup.

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