Mark's Reviews > The Postman

The Postman by David Brin
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's review
Jan 03, 09

bookshelves: own-it, sci-fi
Read in January, 2009

I first heard about The Postman over 10 years ago when a good friend briefly gave me an introduction to the plot of the book. It was one of those books that had been in the back of my mind to read ever since but never quite made it to the top of the ever-growing reading list. Recent reads of several post-apocalyptic sci-fi books reminded me to finally pick up this novel.

Unlike the forgettable Kevin Costner movie (which I may now need to rewatch to reconfirm its terrible reputation), the book now ranks high among other sci-fi favorites. The Postman is not perfect, as several side characters could have been avoided, but The Postman delivers an entertaining read with thoughtful avenues. For example, the discussion on "The Big Lie" is a technique summarized well by Brin (and something we can see has been applied in the past and likely will continue in the future):

"Just sound like you know what you're talking about - as if you're citing real facts. Talk very fast. Weave your lies into the shape of a conspiracy theory and repeat your assertions over and over again. Those who want an excuse to hate or blame - those with big but weak egos - will leap at a simple, neat explanation for the way the world is. Those types will never call you on the facts."

Passages such as the above elevate this tale above standard mass-market fare. While many such discussions are woven into the storyline, another one that stood out was a brief comment on how science is often of little interest to some extreme groups, unless it is for technological application to warfare: "They never had really cared about technology, except what was necessary to make war. Science benefited everyone too much, especially the weak." What a direct statement on science itself and the selfishness that can accompany some views of this grand discipline. Science is fantastic, it solves many problems while continuing to stoke our curiosities - however, its advancements do bring about responsibility to ensure applications benefit mankind rather than selfish, misplaced ideologies. Definitely a difficult task that continues today.

The rebuilding of civilization via a reluctant hero is not a new storyline but David Brin's unusual application of the postal service as the driving mechanism was surprisingly enthralling. This is a book that will be enjoyable in a subsequent reads.

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