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 Wasteland Book Review: The Postman by David Brin View next topic
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Dogmeatlives
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 5:56 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

[ Literature -> Review ] - More info on Literature: The Postman

POSTMANI sure do love getting letters from friends and relations out there in the wasteland, and as a matter of fact, just the other day my brother wrote to me from out in Kentucky where he’s living with his wife:

Dear Charles,
A man ultimately needs to survive, and I guess that’s why I’m writing you by the light of this rusty ole lamp. Brother, I have joined the society of Wasteland Cannibals. Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘this is horrible, my own flesh and blood is feeding on the flesh and blood of someone else’s flesh and blood’, but before you judge, let me remind you that a man ultimately needs to survive. First of all, they threatened to eat me if I didn’t join their ranks and even after I showed them my mutated fourteenth finger (the one with the beginnings of an eye growing off it) they insisted on serving me up as that evening’s meal. Well, it was right then and there that I made up my mind to become a cannibal, and I swore to hunt alongside them. It’s not so bad anyhow; I’ve got myself a wife and even if she can get a bit bitey, she’s actually quite attractive on a moonless night once I’ve closed my eyes real tight. Don’t fret for me, Charles. Take care of yourself and your homey little hole in the ground.

See you soon,

Flint

It's not a hole in the ground, it's an impenetrable bunker. Well anyway, normally I love getting letters from folks; I love how a good long letter keeps me connected to the world beyond my scouting range and makes that world seem a bit more inviting. My mail carrier is a somewhat deathly looking old coot who calls himself Fishbones and wanders the wastes delivering letters and packages and accepting food, water, trinkets or pretty much whatever you're willing to give him. Recently I asked Fishbones why he does what he does and he handed me a copy of David Brin’s The Postman and told me to read it. I did.

After the world ends and the United States crumble to the ground could we ever reclaim our past symbols, achievements, and strengths and use them to crawl back from the new dark age into the light of a civilization we once knew, or are we only grasping at ghosts?

That, friends, is the question at the heart of The Postman; a novel in which the good old US of A was only nearly destroyed by the third great war, and things could have been rebuilt. That is until Uncle Sam receives a knock-out blow when an army of right-wing survivalists led by a charismatic Rush Limbaugh character decide to start a senseless civil war. The nation and it’s infrastructure are destroyed in this second American civil war and our reluctant hero finds himself wandering from Minnesota to as far west as Oregon.

Before we go any further, at this point I have to warn that if you were one of the many unfortunate souls whose minds were seared by that craptastic film adaptation starring Kevin Costner, you should by no means use that as a judge of the book it was based on. The film by the same name is related to the novel only as my snot is related to myself. In other words, the book tells an exponentially more complex and substantial story that the movie really only skims the first third of. Now that I think of it, that snot analogy doesn’t make much sense, but whatever.

The setting shared by both the book and that mental apocalypse of a film is not traditionally post-apocalyptic, and the blighted wasteland we often connect with the genre is replaced with the deep forests and rolling green hills you’re more likely to see in a northwestern flick about a guy who falls for the rancher’s daughter. It seems that The Postman’s northwest has been relatively untouched by the holocaust that left the American civilization gutted.

The main character, Gordon Krantz, may be the last idealist on Earth, with a nagging sense that living should be about more than mere survival, and many years after the U.S. has ceased to be, he finds himself roaming from community to fragile community entertaining the locals by poorly reciting Shakespeare or delighting folks with some old commercial jingles that some can remember from that amazing invention; the television. His work as a sort of post-apocalyptic travelling minstrel seems to be keeping him fed until he’s set upon by highwaymen who take nearly all his supplies and leave him to freeze to death in the night.

Thus, his adventures as the titular postman begin when instead of dying; Krantz comes across a mail carrier uniform, a sack of mail, and the will to survive (a bottle of booze). He takes the mail, wears the uniform, and drinks too deeply from the will to survive and is at first mistaken for a mail carrier because people in the towns he visits are desperate to believe that this symbol of their former nation, the mailman, is still alive and in the flesh. Later, he deliberately lies about himself and the rest of the country and causes hope to grow that the nation is not dead, but only healing.

This is a great post-apocalyptic novel and a fine modern American one as well. Check it out if you actually enjoyed the crappy movie, or if you’re looking for a less bleak, well written vision of the world ended.

I give it four Costners reciting Shakespeare out of five.

COSTNERSurvival Perk: Believe you me, when the world ends and the fight for our lives begins this book reminds us that words truly are weapons. Finding oneself robbed and beaten and left for dead in some wasteland ditch, if there’s anything to learn from The Postman, it’s that one had better learn to bullshit. If you can do that, and have the cajones to do it well, you may not get yourself killed right away. Oh, and it also seems to help to remember some Shakespeare, and for the tougher crowds it's a safe bet to learn to recite Legally Blonde from start to finish. Trust me when I say mutants (especially the ones out in the Deadlands) really eat up that bubbly lawyer crap. It may keep your head off a spike one day.

---Kevin Costner as The Postman in 'The Postman'

Spotted @ Wasteland Radio

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TonyM19
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 6:12 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

You should definitely give this book a chance. Like the man says, don't let the urine poor film put you off
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Mad Max RW
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 8:53 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

It's a good book, but the stuff about the super mutant soldiers and the fake HAL 9000 computers running towns comes out of nowhere.
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4too
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:21 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Variations On A Theme





Mad Max RW wrote:
... but the stuff about the super mutant soldiers and the fake HAL 9000 computers running towns comes out of nowhere.



The super computer side quest might seem less an isolated anecdote, if see it as 'yet another' false hope.
The same social, political, economic melt down would cripple or kill any technological centralization that depends on the greater 20th Century infrastructure.
They didn't have the spare parts, if I recall.

!Science! won't be god like, !Science! won't be magic. Couldn't fix what broke ...

Folk's would just have to rebuild IT ALL, by themselves.


Yes, the super soldiers were a surprise, sort of like the grand plan of the Master and the Super Mutants in FO1.

But, Brin's supermen were genetic engineered products of the old US of A.
The same Cold War that went nuclear, had other weapon systems gone rogue.
If I recall , the second generation muties were main acters with in the militias,in pulling down the rule of law, after the disaster of nuclear winter.
Anyway, the 2nd gen muties were out to empire build and threaten communities struggling to create regional economies.


The Postman as the great facilitator set up the show down between rival *superheroes*.



The movie was just a movie, and naked grass roots patriotism was a rare fling for the entertainment industrial complex.






4too
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MadBill
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 30, 2012 3:09 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I've entirely enjoyed all of Brin's works that I've had the pleasure to read, but this is one tale I haven't picked up yet. On my list, but my list is too deep right now.
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Dogmeatlives
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 30, 2012 3:16 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Mad Max RW wrote:
It's a good book, but the stuff about the super mutant soldiers and the fake HAL 9000 computers running towns comes out of nowhere.

Those elements definitely change the flow of the story out of nowhere, but I think it's for the better. The Postman, the super soldiers, and the supercomputer are like elder gods and its fun to watch them work and battle with each other. That's where I scratch my head with the movie. You could have added either element and upped the stakes but for some reason both are left out.
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Cimmerian Nights
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 2:09 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Pretty cool book, I almost bailed on it as it was veering dangerously close to rah-rah goodie-goodie stars and stripesism but it's balanced with the the Postman grappling with the fact that he's kind of a fraud that pushes false hope.

The cyborgs were kind of out of nowhere. I liked the fake computer, very "ignore the man behind the curtain."

I recommend Earth Abides for those who haven't read it, almost pre-Fallouty descent into tribalism in a fallen civilization.
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S4ur0n27
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 3:10 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Speaking 'bout post-apoc books... has anyone read Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's False Dawn? I picked it up randomly in a used book store for 2 bucks and it's surprisingly good, even though the rest of her books looks like shite. It was published in '78 and reading it, lots of stuff made me think "Fallout". I felt like it might have had a strong influence on Fallout.

The book is epic, dealing with rape, crossbows, amputation, mutants, pirates, lepers, crazy religious people; it's both very raw and very cerebral, it's dark, crude and violent, but it also highlights the world's vacuity, how it's pointless (or not) to have hope, and how different human relations are in a different context.

Great stuff.
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SenisterDenister
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:18 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I'll have to pick that up, then. I've actually been rereading A Canticle for Leibowitz, myself.
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Dogmeatlives
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:11 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

S4ur0n27 wrote:
Speaking 'bout post-apoc books... has anyone read Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's False Dawn? I picked it up randomly in a used book store for 2 bucks and it's surprisingly good, even though the rest of her books looks like shite. It was published in '78 and reading it, lots of stuff made me think "Fallout". I felt like it might have had a strong influence on Fallout.

The book is epic, dealing with rape, crossbows, amputation, mutants, pirates, lepers, crazy religious people; it's both very raw and very cerebral, it's dark, crude and violent, but it also highlights the world's vacuity, how it's pointless (or not) to have hope, and how different human relations are in a different context.

Great stuff.


That's one I will have to find. I'm working on this being the first of series of book reviews meant more as a way to get gamers who visit dac to read some of the awesome post-apoc fic out there. The next one is The Road.
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SenisterDenister
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 11:03 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

The Road is a good read. The actual writing style may be simplistic but honestly it helps establish the mood, I think. Overall really bleak and the whole thing just has this overbearing sense of hopelessness. Should reread that next.
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Dogmeatlives
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:31 am Reply with quoteBack to top

SenisterDenister wrote:
The Road is a good read. The actual writing style may be simplistic but honestly it helps establish the mood, I think. Overall really bleak and the whole thing just has this overbearing sense of hopelessness. Should reread that next.


I just did. I likened the setting to a terrifying party game of limbo- all the players are in a battle to see who can sink down the lowest, while on large speakers overhead we hear not ‘Mambo No.5’ or ‘Love Shack’, but only screams of terror, and sobs, and pleas for mercy. The losers in this game of limbo are cooked and eaten and their bones are left behind in the ash
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S4ur0n27
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2012 2:23 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

God I hate Limbo.

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rad resistance
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2012 7:20 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Dogmeatlives wrote:
all the players are in a battle to see who can sink down the lowest, while on large speakers overhead we hear not ‘Mambo No.5’ or ‘Love Shack’, but only screams of terror, and sobs, and pleas for mercy. The losers in this game of limbo are cooked and eaten and their bones are left behind in the ash


Isn't that how most limbo games play out?
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S4ur0n27
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2012 7:39 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

rad resistance wrote:
Dogmeatlives wrote:
all the players are in a battle to see who can sink down the lowest, while on large speakers overhead we hear not ‘Mambo No.5’ or ‘Love Shack’, but only screams of terror, and sobs, and pleas for mercy. The losers in this game of limbo are cooked and eaten and their bones are left behind in the ash


Isn't that how most limbo games play out?


Actually it sounds like the Hunger games.
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rad resistance
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 7:16 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Running Man, the Hunger Games are unoriginal.
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Blargh
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 7:47 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

originality is now unoriginal

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POOPERSCOOPER
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:18 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I actually liked the movie, I liked all the ideas especially the one you mentioned about "past symbols, achievements, and strengths and use them to crawl back from the new dark age into the light of a civilization we once knew..."

I kind of want to read the book but I'm a bit disenchanted when I hear it has combat robots and mutants.
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4too
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 11:09 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Textural Immersion







POOPERSCOOPER wrote:
… I kind of want to read the book but I'm a bit disenchanted when I hear it has combat robots and mutants.




Too much of my reading this Century is not novel length, slow motion words per minute, technical, "mouth breather" pace.

As I got into The Postman reading rate increased with out imparing comprehension.
A type of immersion reading, so focused on the page that it's nearly twilight before stop, haven't turned on any lights.

May not be your experience.

Fore warned may spoil, or prepare.

If give it a chance may not be surprised by a WTF moment and soldier on to see just where Brin is going.
Was it a derail, a tangent, or a filling out on why the fall of civilization happened in a T.S. Elliot 'whimpering' sort of way.
See if it was necessary to further dramatize / gild his 'over arching' story.




4too
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:30 am Reply with quoteBack to top

:postmodernismfedora:

Why so much literative speculation on the apocalypse? I doubt that any bit of sci-fi poetry will help you in the off-chance you have to fight another man to the death for a clean(er) pair of undies. Unless of course your poem is 5000 pages long and weighs as much as a tuna. That's assuming we ever get to the point of complete unadulterated anarchy. Nukes can take us there, but there's no mutually guaranteed destruction now. Ashes where a rival used to be. There's only one superpower these days, and it throws it's weight around frivolously like a cyber chimp with a lasergun. As far as I'm concerned 99% of us live mundane pointless existances and anything but fiction is bland meaningless drivel to grind out an existance devoid of all moral consequence anyway, it will prove difficult to go anywhere but up.
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