I re-read The Postman
in Sept. 2011 because part of me felt it wasn't really fair to rate a book I had read only once, 20 years ago, and remembered only vaguely. I'm sticking with my original three-star rating - it was an interesting read, but I doubt it will stick with me any more vividly than it did after my first time.
In a nutshell: The main character, Gordon Frantz, is a survivor of the collapse of the United States (~15 years before) due to the combination of a brief nuclear war, the subsequent outbreak of a devastating epidemic, and the final blow, the depredations of roving bands of Nihilistic survivalists who saw the country's weakness as an opportunity to seize anything and everything they wanted, by whatever means necessary. Having been recently robbed of most of his gear, he stumbles on an old US Mail truck and takes the uniform and mail bag of its skeleton inhabitant. When he shows up in the next town wearing the mail carrier's uniform, it generates a surprising response from the people there: they want to believe he is truly a representative of some authority, and he takes advantage of their credulity, claiming to be an advance inspector for the Restored United States of America. Although initially he intends only to trade on their hopes to get much-needed supplies, Gordon's assumed role turns out to be much more real than he anticipates.
There's a piece of me that wishes Brin had explored Gordon's backstory in greater depth - how he experienced the nuclear war/plague/civil war that led to the dark age in which The Postman
is set, and how he survived the intervening decade-plus - and then made the story told in The Postman
the second half. It's difficult for me to believe that someone so evidently intelligent and resourceful would have taken more than 10 years to make it out to the west coast, esp. since Gordon states outright that there had long been rumors of remnants of civilization existing in the Pacific Northwest. Even a perfunctory sketch of the time between the "Doomwar" and the present day would help keep Gordon's survival from seeming too good to be true. He's a college-educated guy who possessed or acquired survival skills (and quickly enough to stay alive initially, and then throughout the long years of danger from predatory "Holnist" gangs who freely killed anyone that might have anything for them to steal), but there's no context given that explains how that might have come about (was he a brainy kid from the country who learned to hunt from his father? was he a rustic camper, or a back-to-the-lander?) Gordon's own references to militia service provide a partial explanation, but only in a really superficial way.
I don't necessarily agree with the complaint of other reviewers about a deus ex machina
resolution - although one villain is dispatched all too conveniently, I thought the introduction of the apparently unbeatable foe and his defeat at the hands of his doppelganger
was less about a tidy "fix" and more about the triumph of humanist values over the Holnists - although yes, suspiciously serendipitous.