Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Postman by David Brin

The Postman more or less steers clear from the set-piece elements of the post-apocalyptic genre, but not completely. Written in the mid-80s, it describes a world that was halted at that moment, giving importance, say, to a mail carrier as a symbol of federal authority. There are excursions into the realm of 80s feminism, brought forward, which hardly a soul would recognize today. The idea of the supercomputer, detached from everything, working in isolation to solve problems in ways that are inscrutable to all but a few technicians, is also not our world. Technology is in everyone’s hand, quite literally, and on the go.

Despite these anachronisms, The Postman is a solid read. Gordon is invested with the positive qualities of the hero without too much of a stretch to unbelievable exploits. He is hemmed in by his world, by the lies of authority he tells, and can’t get beyond them.

In the end, that is the redeeming feature and message of the novel. So much of “authority” is based on duplicity. We invest figures with authority from a sense of need – not necessarily because they have such authority. The postman explores this dynamic, sometimes with a light hand, sometimes not. But in the end, this is the element that saves the novel from rough cliche.

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