Five descriptions of the life-and-death struggle for survival between Earth and Ocean introduce and divide this four-part story concerning the parallel human struggle. The first two of the four parts appeared earlier in slightly different form, “The Postman” in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine in November of 1982 and “The Cyclops” in the same publication in March of 1984.
Three characters—Gordon Krantz, Dena Spurgen, and George Powhatan—struggle against a survivalist named General Macklin. The central character, Krantz, is an idealistic wanderer who performs plays in villages of Oregon and yearns for someone to take responsibility for restoring civilization in a land of disease, hunger, brutality, and desperation. After bandits steal his possessions, Krantz finds an abandoned postal service jeep with the skeleton of the postal carrier in it. Seeking warmth during the night, Krantz shelters inside the jeep. In the morning, he borrows the postman’s clothing and a bag of letters as aids to survival.
The postal uniform, symbolizing reborn hope, initiates plot actions. Villagers fantasize that Krantz is a real mail carrier, a hero who can create new life. Unwilling to disillusion them, Krantz sells his scam for a restored America by playing the role of postal courier and federal inspector. Moving constantly to keep his hoax believable, he encounters various extremes of cruelty, apathy, fear, guilt, and love among...
(The entire section is 460 words.)