The Postman

by David Brin

Paperback, 1997



Call number




Orbit (1997), Paperback


He was a survivor-a wanderer who traded tales for food and shelter in the dark and savage aftermath of a devastating war. Fate touches him one chill winter's day when he borrows the jacket of a long-dead postal worker to protect himself from the cold. The old, worn uniform still has power as a symbol of hope, and with it he begins to weave his greatest tale, of a nation on the road to recovery. This is the story of a lie that became the most powerful kind of truth. A timeless novel as urgently compelling as War Day or Alas, Babylon, David Brin's The Postman is the dramatically moving saga of a man who rekindled the spirit of America through the power of a dream, from a modern master of science fiction.

Media reviews

The great virtue of "The Postman" by David Brin is that it takes nothing for granted...Mr. Brin offers no simplistic formulas; nothing comes easy for the postman or the people he tries to help... Still, I found myself wishing that the ''war for men's minds'' in this book had a convincing personal
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as well as a sociological dimension. I am afraid that it would take a more complex character than his likable but limited postman to do justice to the important issues Mr. Brin raises.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member reading_fox
Superb. Powerful, compelling, poignent.

Set in post apocalypse america, some 16 years after a limited world war, society has collapsed back into shattered enclaves. Gorden, ex-marine, ex-milita and almost ex-survivor is alone in the wilderness of Oregan. An encounter with local bandits - both more
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and less organised than himself - goes badly and he flees deeper into the hills, chancing upon an abandonded and unfound jeep for shelter. In the morning he disregards any scruples (which already sets him out as different from many others in this world) and takes the jacket and gear from the long dead postman / driver who no longer requires them. Little does he realise their potential. But as he travels westward isolated and deeply suspicious communities - managing to raise themselves out of subsistance level barbarianism - are awed at the symbol he represents in his uniform, and life goes easier for a while. However like a cancer eating away at society, not everyone is willing to pull together and in these barbaric ages, Survivalists, gun nuts, alpha men, and those with short term vision threaten the very tenuous existance that even the most hardy farmer manages to eke out. Gordon's uniformed presence and the concept of "offical" help damages their ideals and self justifications, forcing a dramatic showdown.

The only slightly discordant note is the dates. This was written in '85 and the story is set in 2011 which makes the great collapse about 95-98 or so. Some of the technology postulated for this 10 year advance from 85 is just highly improbable - but have seemed much more reasonable set 25 or more years later on. The only other gripe is that the book is not long enough! The ending came far too soon - although perfectly paced as a plot - I wanted to carry on reading for days more. The characters are skillfully crafted, deftly handled to pull at emotions. The motivations and complex moral and ethical dilemmas required to stay alive in such a world are subtley introduced, and you feel the characters' pain as difficult choices have to be made. The descriptions are limited but again very well crafted leaving glowing images of a world just starting to recover. This allows the story to flow from location to location over time spans that are clearly indicated within the text at a gripping pace. The social commentry is muted, but clearly marked - humankind has to pull together, everyone, or else all will perish.

Truly a masterpiece of dystopia, hope, spirit, and meaning of being human rather than just alive.
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LibraryThing member abatishko
I originally read the book before I ever saw the movie. It turns out that both are very good, but the movie definitely departed from the plotline of the book.

This is an excellent book. Brin presents a main character who is interesting and believable, a man who is caught in his own lies. The
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post-apocalyptic genre is not overly common these days, and may not appeal to everyone. Brin mostly does a good job of making the setting "timeless" (that is, not becoming dated due to an overreliance on what were current events at the time of writing), however there is some amount of an "alternate history" mindset required to enjoy this book.

I think my only real complaints about the book are two pieces of somewhat advanced technology that he threw into the story. They work into the plot just fine, but their existance feels somewhat jarring to me in a setting that is otherwise fairly well grounded on available technology. Fortunately, this is only a very minor blemish in my eyes, and the book really doesn't suffer from it. 5/5
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LibraryThing member unclebob53703
SPOILERS: Post-apocalypse novel in which the protagonist impersonates a postman and invents a "restored" government of the US to get special treatment, then it snowballs into something meaningful. Along the way there's a supercomputer-run society that isn't what it seems and some genetically
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enhanced "survivalist" bad guys. Beyond the gimmick of his assumed identify I didn't find the character particularly interesting--but still a good story and an uplifting ending, well worth reading if you like this kind of stuff.
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LibraryThing member jlparent
Yes, this is the book that inspired the movie. No, they are not very alike except in the bare bones way. I never liked Costner's acting but I always liked the premise of the movie, so when I found out it was based on the book, I had to read it. The book is much more stark, more inside The Postman
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(Gordon Krantz)'s head, and is weighty. The torn countryside, pocket communities, survival mindset, and daily hardships are represented so much stronger within the pages than on the screen. It has some uplifting moments as well, which really touched me (ie the first time in 17 yrs that Gordon sees a light bulb on instead of a candle or oil lamp, he cries for all that is lost even though he thought himself a "hardened survivor"). It can get a bit monotonous with Gordon's waffling on helping himself or helping others, but overall - well worth reading.
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LibraryThing member Nodosaurus
In The Postman, David Brin tells the story of men in a post-apocalyptic world. Set in the near future (but an alternate past for today), the protagonist, Gordon Krantz, is traveling west looking for a place in the world.

It is set in Oregon almost two decades after a nuclear war where the young
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have no memory of the pre-apocalypse. Early in the book, it is Winter when he is robbed by three men who take everything of value that he has. Cold and seeking shelter, he finds a wrecked mail car with a dead mailman. Taking the dead man's clothing and a mail sack so he'll have something to read. This action determines his fate and that or Oregon.

In order to gain food and shelter, he presents himself as a mailman of a reformed USA. Shuffling through his bag, he is able to find a few letters to deliver to local survivors. His conscious bothers him for the lies, but his subconscious compels him to continue the farce.

In trial after trial, he is only trying to survive, but the uniform and his subconscious call him into action; he, or rather his uniform, becomes a symbol of a united country. Where he goes, people are inspired and form their own post offices. In spite of his own desires, he is making a truth out of his fiction.

David Brin has built a compelling picture of this world and its characters. The story is compelling and very well-told.
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LibraryThing member auntmarge64
A decade and a half after worldwide nuclear war, a survivor, running through an Oregon forest to escape bandits, stumbles across a jeep and the skeleton of a mailman from the early years of the apocalypse, when there was still a semblance of government. He takes the uniform, hat, and boots to
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replace what has been stolen, and also a bag of mail, addressed years ago to people probably long dead. To ensure his welcome at suspicious settlements, he pretends to be a representative of a rebuilt government mail service and manages to find a few addressees still alive in the area. As his cover story becomes accepted, he in turn is forced to accept new letters bound for the areas toward which he is traveling, and without intending to, he begins to forge connections between some of the villages. His travels lead him westward toward the Pacific, and he eventually becomes entangled with a town seemingly being led by a smart computer and with a survivalist group determined to destroy everything not in its control.

I avoided reading this for years because of the terrible reviews of the Costner film (although I've seen more positive ones lately), and it was pleasant to discover a worthwhile post-apocalyptic tale under all the baggage. It's just a good old-fashioned story with some hope for humanity mixed in.
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LibraryThing member WingedWolf
Incredible, moving, and hope-inspiring story. After a nuclear apocalypse, the government has fallen. One man works to restore order...simply by delivering the mail.
LibraryThing member ejp1082
I'm going to say something really shocking: I liked the Kevin Costner movie better than I liked the book.

I think it's a good book, and certainly one of David Brin's better works. As a post apocalyptic novel, it's fairly standard - but it's nevertheless a good read. Using the postman as the primary
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symbol of civilization may seem a little odd, but I think Brin manages to use it convincingly.

The reason that I liked the movie better was that when I read the book, it felt a little dated, and seemed to contain many superfluous science fictional elements that didn't work for me (supersoldiers, for one example). The movie version left that stuff out and trimmed it down to the core plot, which I think served the story better.
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LibraryThing member samfsmith
Another “end of the world” novel. In this one, nuclear war has reduced humankind to isolated bands of farmers and hunters, very low-tech. The protagonist, while struggling to escape bandits who have stolen all his survival gear, stumbles across the long-dead body of a US Postman. He takes the
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uniform and cap, and is afterward mistaken for an actual postman, a symbol of the fictional “restored” US government. He goes along with the misunderstanding, taking advantage of it, establishing regular mail service and post offices in the scattered settlements of what was once Oregon. Of course things have to turn bad, and his deception has to be discovered, etc.

To my taste, the novel is a little too much science fiction. It would have worked just as well without some of the elements introduced later in the book. But it is science fiction, so I cannot really complain. It is not as good an apocalyptic novel as “Earth Abides” or “Day of the Triffids”, but it’s still worth a read.
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LibraryThing member sturlington
While not as satisfying or as meaty as Earth, Brin’s portrayal of a post-apocalyptic America is still compelling. The main character, trying to survive in the Oregon wilderness, happens upon a dead mailman and confiscates his uniform. Putting it on, he becomes the “postman” for the people in
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the enclaves he visits and even begins carrying their mail, all the while bemoaning the fact that no one will take responsibility for restoring civilization without realizing that he, in a small way, is doing exactly that.

One interesting plot point is that the collapse is not brought about by war or disease but by an anarchist militia movement capitalizing on those things to destroy American society from within. Of course, at the end, the Postman and his followers must fight a decisive battle with that same militia to determine whose way of life will ultimately win out.
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LibraryThing member cleverusername2
This is going to be one I have to read every few years. A classic of life during nuclear winter. Civil society in America has died in a slow battle with post-war chaos, hypermilita groups, and famine. It's a wonderful tale of a professional liar, a traveling actor who becomes mired in his
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deceptions and in the process starts a legend that might lead the survivors back to civilization. The first step is the simple act of starting a postal service. There is interesting musing about feminism in this story. I found this narrative to be make the book worth it alone. Also, the book is a great travel guide through some scenic spots in post-apocalyptic Oregon.
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LibraryThing member bilbette
Post-Apocolyptic Pacific Northwest - I don't normally like post-apocolyptic novels, and this was true to form. However, I actually enjoyed the movie more, in spite of Kevin Costner.
LibraryThing member ragwaine
A lot of action. Not like a normal sci-fi novel, less detail to Sci-fi elements. Good soliloques.
LibraryThing member wirkman
This is not a novel. It is a series of connected short stories and novellas, originally run in science fiction magazines. In the original context of the sf mag, they packed quite a whallop; in book form, they don't hold up as well. Impossible to recommend, though some people will take to it like a
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cop to a donut.

I much prefer other works by this author. That being said, when I first read the stories, in their original forms, I loved them!

What more can I say?
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LibraryThing member Karlstar
This is one of the better post-apocalypse books I've read. Maybe not quite as good as A Canticle for Leibowitz, its still quite good. The basic story is that years after an attack that has decimated the United States, a survivor unintentionally, and at first fraudulently, takes the role of a postal
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carrier, and begins uniting people who desperately desire communication. Basic plotting with a bit of technology, and Brin's usual crispness and solid characters. I enjoyed this very much, and while the movie version wasn't great, it did do the book some justice. The book is better.
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LibraryThing member Ed_Gosney
Gasp! I'm both a fan of the book and a fan of the movie! While the movie is different in many ways from the book, and I think that a lot of people don't like it because of Costner, I enjoyed it for what it was. Then again, I'm a real sucker for post-apocalyptic stories, and especially so when the
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future isn't necessarily bleak (ummm, can On the Beach get much bleaker?). But if I had to choose which I liked better between film and book, the choice is easy. Another I hope I can get my kids to read.
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LibraryThing member iftyzaidi
Having been singularly underwhelmed by the movie when I saw it way back when, this was always low on my reading list, but Im glad I finally got round to pulling it out of the 'to read' pile. There's nothing spectacular about the book, but its well written, the main character is sympathetic and
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post-apocalypse Oregon well realised. A quick and entertaining read.
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LibraryThing member fothpaul
I thought that the general story was a good premise but that the execution was just a little off. The story about the chancer Gordon using the postmans outfit as a means of keeping himself in bread was a great idea but by the end there had been so many little extras added and little twists here and
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there that it had become too convoluted that I felt a little dissapointed. Probably wouldn't read any more from this author, but I did enjoy many parts of the book.
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LibraryThing member longhorndaniel
Excellent post apocalyptic tale of what the world might be like following armegeddon; excellent storyline and characters; but do NOT expect the movie to do it much justice
LibraryThing member tloeffler
Gordon Krantz is scrounging his way through the post-apocalyptic northwest US, when he stumbles across a USPS jeep with a skeleton dressed in a postal uniform. He takes the jacket & mailbags for survival, and the hat as a lark, and he finds that there is still status in being a postman. Along with
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status comes responsibility, and Gordon finds himself a reluctant hero. A thought-provoking read that I found difficult to put down.
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LibraryThing member Timothy_Dalton007
I really enjoyed this novel. Brin did a great job giving some life to the main character Gordon Krantz. Gordon continued to fight his hardest to escape the lies he built only to fall deeper into them. With each lie however, hope is given to the surrounding towns and each look to Gordon as their
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savior. There are not huge levels of Sci-fi, but this is still a great post apocalyptic story.

Now moving on to the movie adaptation. I thoroughly enjoyed the book just as much as I enjoyed the movie however, for two completely different reasons. Kevin Costner pretty much read the novel while he was doing work around the house, because he must have taken the script and had at it with the weed whacker, then stomped on it with his golf shoe, and topped it off by using a flamethrower. Whatever pieces were left over he made the movie and then mainlined some coke, then decided to make his own movie/ending. However, as unlike as the novel and the movie are I did really like Kevin Costner's movie, but I enjoy it as if it were a completely different concept involving a postman.
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LibraryThing member LaurieRKing
If you saw the movie, please read the book. Classic sci-fi, combining clever ideas and people you care about.
LibraryThing member juniperSun
Caveat: I have not seen the movie.
Not quite dated, but with a flavor of an earlier era, this 1985 scifi describes a post-apocalyptic 2011. For example, Gordon's observation that the only fallen bridges were those destroyed during fighting because "when man built well, it seemed, only time or man
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himself could bring his things down." If Brin had written after the Bay Bridge and the Minnesota bridge collapses he wouldn't have written that.
The story itself is an interesting read, if you don't think about how Gordon managed to survive on his own for 16 years before the story opens, or about how an 18 yr old (at the time of the Disaster) was so well-read in a number of college-level topics. Brin got on my wrong side at the start, with his references to stiff/thorny/scratchy "bracken". I think "brambles" is the word he wanted, and take umbrage at humble bracken being so defiled.
My interest faded quickly in the last section when Brin tried to incorporate a feminist character. His understanding of feminism is sadly awry--he does better at portraying fights and the survivalist male mentality.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
Tells the story of Gordan Krantz, who it trying to reach the Pacific Northwest 16 years after nuclear war and other disasters have destroyed civilization as we know it. By chance, he finds the uniform of a mailman. When he walks into a town wearing it, they assume that he really is a mailman, and
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he becomes the focus of their hopes for a better future. He finds this fiction useful as he travels, and has soon created an elaborate story of a Restored United States.

The story raises questions about the utility and morality of lies: on one hand, Gordon's lies (and the lies of Cyclops, a supposed hyper-intelligent computer that is actually a front for a bunch of scientists) do a lot of good. They provide people with hope, they inspire people to do good, and in a way they become self-fulfilling prophecies. On the other hand, people are also willing to die for these lies, and Gordon feels a lot of guilt over this.

This is one of my favorite kinds of science fiction - by putting people into extreme situations, it examines what it means to be human and explores human nature. On the other hand, it's not the most profound book ever written: the moral ambiguity is a bit heavy-handed, and other than Gordon, most of the characters are relatively flat.

I listened to the audiobook, and I wasn't very impressed with the narrator. He reads painfully slowly - I actually turned it up to 1.5x speed, and even then the narration was very slow.
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LibraryThing member dandelionroots
A moral man of the twentieth century tries to survive and not be too horrified at the men and their practices he encounters upon his travels around the former US looking for something meaningful and civilized to contribute to after an apocalyptic war. In the process he weaves an elaborate lie that
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reestablishes postal routes in a small, but significant portion of the former country. Brin offers a small hope that humanity will rebuild and possibly avert their former catastrophe, but it's realistically slim.
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Hugo Award (Nominee — Novella — 1983)
Nebula Award (Nominee — Novel — 1985)
Locus Award (Finalist — Science Fiction Novel — 1986)
Best Fiction for Young Adults (Selection — 1985)


Original publication date


Physical description

336 p.; 6.93 inches


1857234057 / 9781857234053
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