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The Postman

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The Postman is a post-apocalyptic
Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction
Apocalyptic fiction is a sub-genre of science fiction that is concerned with the end of civilization due to a potentially existential catastrophe such as nuclear warfare, pandemic, extraterrestrial attack, impact event, cybernetic revolt, technological singularity, dysgenics, supernatural...

 science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by David Brin
David Brin
Glen David Brin, Ph.D. is an American scientist and award-winning author of science fiction. He has received the Hugo, Locus, Campbell and Nebula Awards.-Biography:...

. A drifter stumbles across the uniform of an old United States Postal Service
United States Postal Service
The United States Postal Service is an independent agency of the United States government responsible for providing postal service in the United States...

 letter carrier and with empty promises of aid from the "Restored United States of America", gives hope to a community threatened by local warlord
Warlord
A warlord is a person with power who has both military and civil control over a subnational area due to armed forces loyal to the warlord and not to a central authority. The term can also mean one who espouses the ideal that war is necessary, and has the means and authority to engage in war...

s. The first two parts were published separately as "The Postman" (1982) and "Cyclops" (1984). Both were nominated for a Hugo Award
Hugo Award
The Hugo Awards are given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, and was officially named the Science Fiction Achievement Awards...

 for Best Novella
Hugo Award for Best Novella
The Hugo Awards are given every year by the World Science Fiction Society for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, and was once officially...

. The completed novel was awarded first prize in the John W. Campbell Award
Campbell award (best novel)
The John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for best science fiction novel was created in 1973 by writers and critics Harry Harrison and Brian W. Aldiss to honor Campbell's name...

's for the best science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 novel of the year in 1986, and won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Winners of the Locus Award for Best SF Novel, awarded by the Locus magazine. Awards presented in a given year are for works published in the previous calendar year....

 that same year. It was also nominated for Hugo and Nebula
Nebula Award
The Nebula Award is given each year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America , for the best science fiction/fantasy fiction published in the United States during the previous year...

 awards for best novel.

In 1997, a film adaptation
The Postman (film)
The Postman is an American post-apocalyptic epic film based on the 1985 novel of the same name by David Brin. It was filmed in northeastern Washington , Fidalgo Island, Washington, central Oregon and Tucson, Arizona, and was directed by Kevin Costner, who also stars in the film...

 starring Kevin Costner
Kevin Costner
Kevin Michael Costner is an American actor, singer, musician, producer, director, and businessman. He has been nominated for three BAFTA Awards, won two Academy Awards, and two Golden Globe Awards. Costner's roles include Lt. John J...

 was made of the novel.

Plot summary


Despite the post-apocalyptic scenario, and several action sequences, the book is largely about civilization and symbols. Each of the three sections deals with a different symbol.

The first is the Postman himself, Gordon Krantz, who takes the uniform solely for warmth after he loses everything but his sleeping clothes. He wanders without establishing himself anywhere, and acts in scenes of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 for supplies. Originally from Minnesota, he has traveled as far West as Oregon. Taking shelter in a long-abandoned postal van, he finds a sack of mail and takes it to a nearby community to barter for food and shelter. His reputation as a real postman builds not because of a deliberate fraud (at least initially) but because people are desperate to believe.

Later, in the second section, he encounters a community (Corvallis, Oregon
Corvallis, Oregon
Corvallis is a city located in central western Oregon, United States. It is the county seat of Benton County and the principal city of the Corvallis, Oregon Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Benton County. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 54,462....

) led by Cyclops, apparently a sentient
Sentience
Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences. Eighteenth century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think from the ability to feel . In modern western philosophy, sentience is the ability to have sensations or experiences...

 artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence is the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science that aims to create it. AI textbooks define the field as "the study and design of intelligent agents" where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its...

 created at Oregon State University
Oregon State University
Oregon State University is a coeducational, public research university located in Corvallis, Oregon, United States. The university offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees and a multitude of research opportunities. There are more than 200 academic degree programs offered through the...

 which miraculously survived the cataclysm. In reality, however, the machine had ceased functioning during a battle; a group of scientists merely maintain the pretense of it working to try and keep hope, order, and knowledge alive.

Eventually, in the third section, as the Postman joins forces with the Cyclops scientists in a war against an influx of "hypersurvivalists", he begins to find that the hypersurvivalists are being pressed from the Rogue River
Rogue River (Oregon)
The Rogue River in southwestern Oregon in the United States flows about in a generally westward direction from the Cascade Range to the Pacific Ocean. Known for its salmon runs, whitewater rafting, and rugged scenery, it was one of the original eight rivers named in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act...

 area to the south as well. The hypersurvivalists are more commonly referred to as Holnists, after the founder of their ideal, Nathan Holn. Many times through the book, curses are uttered which damn Holn for his actions. Nathan Holn was an author who championed an extreme, violent, misogynistic and hypersurvivalist society. Holn is said to have himself been hanged
Hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

 in the novel, but in the time following what should have been a brief period of civil disorder, followers of Holn prevented the United States from recovering from the limited war, and the plagues that followed.

As the story ends, and he comes close to the hypersurvivalist's southern enemy, he begins to find traces of them, primarily in the symbol that they rally behind: the Bear Flag of California
Flag of California
The Bear Flag is the official flag of the state of California. The precursor of the flag was first flown during the 1846 Bear Flag Revolt and was also known as the Bear Flag.-Design:...

. The final scenes give the impression that the three symbols may rally together in an effort to revive civilization.

Another message of the plot deals with the backstory of the post-apocalyptic world: specifically, that it was not the electronics-destroying electromagnetic pulse
Electromagnetic pulse
An electromagnetic pulse is a burst of electromagnetic radiation. The abrupt pulse of electromagnetic radiation usually results from certain types of high energy explosions, especially a nuclear explosion, or from a suddenly fluctuating magnetic field...

s, nor the destruction of major cities, nor the release of various bio-engineered plagues that actually destroyed society: rather, it was the hypersurvivalists themselves, those who maintained stockpiles of weapons and ammunition and who preyed on humanitarian workers and other forces of order.

Translations

  • Japanese
    Japanese language
    is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

    : ("The Postman"), 1988, 1998
  • German
    German language
    German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

    : ("Gordon's Vocation"), 1989
  • Russian
    Russian language
    Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

    : ("The Postman"), 1992, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2004
  • Hungarian
    Hungarian language
    Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

    : ("The Messenger of the Future"), 1998
  • Turkish
    Turkish language
    Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

    : ("The Postman"), 1998
  • Italian
    Italian language
    Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

    : ("The Man of the Day After"), 1987
  • Bulgarian
    Bulgarian language
    Bulgarian is an Indo-European language, a member of the Slavic linguistic group.Bulgarian, along with the closely related Macedonian language, demonstrates several linguistic characteristics that set it apart from all other Slavic languages such as the elimination of case declension, the...

    : ("The Postman"), 1998
  • Spanish
    Spanish language
    Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

    : ("The Postman"), 1998, 2008

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