Gordon Krantz has survived for 16 years after the one-week war which sapped the strength of America and the rest of the world. After the war came a three-year nuclear winter; it’s been colder than normally ever since. He was a soldier during the war, guarding vital food supplied while the world was burning around him and his squad. They failed. Gordon was the only one who survived.
Since then he’s been drifting westwards, learning to survive, avoid radiation hot spots, loot like in Fallout and conserve ammunition. Additionally, he’s been getting food for performing abridged (slaughtered) versions of classic plays in towns and settlements – Shakespeare to survivors.
Now he’s in Oregon where he is attacked and barely survives only to be withered away in the cold and dark without any gear. By a chance encounter he stumbles on a glass window hidden in the foliage. It’s a USPS jeep with a postman skeleton inside, alongside with a warm uniform, a map, undelivered mail and some whiskey.
He picks up the uniform and heads forward. In the next place he performs, he is asked “Tell us again how you got to be the mailman.” Gordon does not actually lie. He replies – food in his mouth – “I just found the mailman’s fings.” The reply is repeated “He found the mailman’s things … so naturally he became …”
Clearly, people want to believe in something bigger than themselves.
The first theme is how fragile we are. When you are already teetering on the edge it takes only a little push to destroy everything, be it a civilisation or disco music (disco did re-emerge quickly). In the book there is a cult of supremacists called the Holnists, named after their leader/thinker Nathan Holn who dismantled and wiped out the last remnants of the functioning and communicating society leaving only dispersed settlements, subsistence living and violent frontier living in its wake.
Another theme is that you have to make a stand and not be silent. By being silent you help the evil.
Somehow, in 2020, this feels too close. Even the saviour, USPS as an institution, is somewhat threatened.
The book has science fiction elements which I have never been too fond of. This time, however, there did not feel so much out of place as before. This is the reason I’ve historically (since 1997) liked the Kevin Costner movie better, even though it is too long and hammy (but I like hammy and overly sentimental scenes, so there) because it got rid of the science fiction parts.
However, The Postman does not waste pages in portraying a rich world and fast-paced story – which feels perhaps a bit too real. Definitely recommended.