The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

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.)

Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The Postman, like David Brin’s other science-fiction novels, explores the society that is created by the interactions of its characters, rather than merely the effects of technology on those characters. This post-nuclear holocaust novel is told from the perspective of Gordon Krantz, using both the first-person point of view and reprints of documents and letters. The book is arranged in four sections, with a prelude to the first section and an interlude between each of the following sections allowing the author to impart more general background information outside the main character’s knowledge. Each of the four sections has its own set of chapters, independently numbered from the other sections. The final section, although following the preceding section in chronology by only a few weeks, can be considered an afterword.

As The Postman opens, Gordon Krantz has lived through the nuclear war that took place during his college years, three years of nuclear winter, and the destruction, through disease and attack, of his militia unit, which protected grain supplies in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area of Minnesota.

Sixteen years after the war, Gordon is just leaving Idaho and entering Oregon when his camp site is attacked by bandits. He escapes with only the few supplies and equipment that he manages to grab; the rest is stolen or destroyed, along with his journal. Gordon attempts to track the bandits because he needs more supplies in order to survive. He becomes lost and finds a crashed postal truck still containing the skeleton of the driver. Gordon uses the mail sacks and vehicle to survive the night cold and buries the driver in the morning. He acquires the uniform, shoes, and some survival equipment from the vehicle. He also takes some of the letters to read...

(The entire section is 736 words.)