THE POSTMAN

David Brin

"It's said that "power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power." — The Postman


DAVID BRIN's The Postman

Bantam, 1985

Read the first 7 chapters online, or scroll down to purchase THE POSTMAN.


will we miss government?

"Lying still, Gordon felt a sad poignancy — something like homesickness. The jeep, the symbolic, faithful letter carrier, the flag patch ... they recalled comfort, innocence, cooperation, an easy life that allowed millions of men and women to relax, to smile or argue as they chose, to be tolerant with one another — and to hope to be better people with the passage of time." — The Postman

This is the story of a lie that became the most powerful kind of truth.

Gordon was a survivor — a wanderer who traded tales for food and shelter in the dark and savage aftermath of a devastating bio-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 Gordon begins to weave his greatest tale, of a nation on the road to recovery.

The Postman is the dramatically moving saga of a man who rekindled the spirit of America through the power of a dream. This best-selling and award-winning novel (NOMINEE: 1986 Nebula and Hugo Awards; WINNER: Locus and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards for best novel; "Best" from the American Library Association) is widely considered the most universally "accessible" Brin novel, for those who don't normally read SF.


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exclusive to this website

A limited number of autographed first edition hardcover copies of The Postman are available for sale for $300. Go here for ordering details.


more about The Postman

the civil service we all want

"This tale of struggle against chaos, by mayors and university professors and postmen, had a 'what if' flavor that was too poignant for him to consider for long." —The Postman

the author reacts to the film

The Postman, the movie

"As many of you know, a movie version of The Postman premiered December 1997 ( watch the film's theatrical trailer), and was promptly killed by both Titanic and attacks by cynical critics. If you missed it, do see it in video. It's a flawed and uneven but ambitious rendition of my story, with some stirring moments and wonderful visual imagery that make it well worth looking at. Though I could complain about lots of things, it's far better than the critics said... though not what it could have been if Costner had stayed closer to the book."

Read David Brin's complete reaction to the Kevin Costner film, or watch his YouTube video comments.

Learn more about all of Brin's novels and books here.


foreign-language editions

The Postman has been translated into Bulgarian, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. Here are some of the covers of the foreign and foreign-language publications.

The Postman's foreign editions

The Postman in the world

film & media queries

Queries about film or media rights to any DAVID BRIN books or stories can be addressed to his film agent:
Vince Gerardis
Created-By Agency
email: rightsqueries@gmail.com
(with cc: to David Brin)

genre-shaping sf

OMNI Online listed The Postman as one of ten science fiction books that changed the genre forever.


The Postman reviews

Chicago Tribune

"The Postman will keep you engrossed until you've finished the last page."

Whitley Streiber, co-author of War Day

"A moving experience ... a powerful cautionary tale."

Los Angeles Times

"The world Brin draws is terrifying; the metaphor of the postman and his lie is thought-provoking."

San Francisco Chronicle

"An engaging novel, serious and light-hearted, with all the charm and innocence of a Frank Capra film ... A post-holocaust tale that is inspiring, often moving and (strange as it may sound) fun to read."

San Diego Tribune

"A thoughtfully-written book ... As good story-tellers do, Brin fills the book with life-and-death struggles, disappointments and triumphs."

Hartford Courant

"A memorable tale of humantity, fueled by love and hope, rebuilding in the face of almost insurmountable odds."

Publisher's Weekly

"Brin successfully and dramatically deepens his theme of responsibility in surprising and provocative ways."

Booklist

"Thoroughly well done, offering absorbing reading ... It also represents an encouraging development — post-holocaust novels that are neither survivalist fantasies nor 'awful warnings.'"

Austin Statesman

"An aventurous and entertaining read. It has similarities to Walter Miller's classic masterpiece, A Canticle for Liebowitz, but is clearly a work with Brin's distinctive stamp on it."

Amazon.com customer review

"I quite enjoyed this novel and found it uplifting in the message of a regular man who had greatness thrust upon him and came to realize that he had to take responsibility. The movie, starring Kevin Costner, is also good but diverges a good bit from the book, especially in the second half. As is often the case, the book is better."

The Charlotte Observer

"This intriguing, well-written story explores the power of symbols and of belief and the difference an individual can make."

Providence Journal

"A warm, enchanting tale. David Brin offers a fine cast of strong, compelling characters. The Postman is the story of the illusions that give meaning to our lives and give people a reason to build civilizations."

Goodreads community review

Our modern day struggles may not be born of a disaster of epic proportions, but more than ever do I see these two conflicting archetypes emerging in our own society as it becomes increasingly polarized. The harsh survivalists... the counter to the Musketeers 'All for one. One for all' bent on their own self-interest and independence versus the weak who gather as beacons of community and the champions of mans responsibility towards their fellow man. On which side do you lay? Which side will survive the struggle in the end?"

Asbury Park Press

"The Postman has a lot to offer. Far superior to most novels that deal with what happens after mankind drops the big one. Although it is a novel that deals with despair and destruction, it is mainly about hope, as well as the fine line that separates myth from history."

The Sacramento Bee

"Storytelling of a high order ... the book's theme is a mature one. Brin offers a wealth of philosophical speculation and draws us into contemplation of whether our leaders have the right to act in ways that violate our futures."

Kirkus Reviews

"A highly persuasive, often gripping, and warmly involving odyssey."

The Pittsburgh Press

"The Postman is a marvelous tale of adventure. Perhaps we should all read it before our mail gets returned stamped 'Addressee Unknown — No Forwarding Address.'"

South Bend Tribune

"Brimming with life, emotion and hope. The Postman is a wonderful antidote for creeping cynicism and fashionable despair."

UPI

"Brin's characters are strong ... He portrays the survivor's problems on an individual level. He reminds us that there is more to lose in a war than just life ... Here is a timely reminder that although a 'minor' nuclear war might not destroy life on earth, it would still be the end of life as we know it."

Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Brin makes telling points about the fragility of the pleasures and privileges we take for granted in modern America. But it is very much an adventure story as well."

Orange County Register

"Brin is a natural storyteller. The Postman is an entertaining yet disturbing work which offers a reaffimation that dreams die hard, and dreams of a civilized world die the hardest of all."

Library Journal

"A thoughtful story, both memorably and gracefully told. Highly recommended."


a brief intro to science fiction author DAVID BRIN

To learn more, visit his books page, or see his "about me" page or detailed biography.

DAVID BRIN author

novels

David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!). Learn More


shorter fiction

Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form. Learn More


Contrary Brin blog

Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore. Learn More


social media influencer

Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages. Learn More

DAVID BRIN scientist

scientist

David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research. Learn More


transparency expert

Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy. Learn More


speaker & consultant

Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 200 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings.Learn More


future/tech advisor

Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was cited as one of the top 10 writers the AI elite follow. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More


other points of departure

visit other pages on this website

pages about science fiction

  • Brin's novels and books
  • Brin's short stories and novellas
  • all about Brin's uplift universe
  • a selection of book reviews
  • Brin's advice for new writers
  • Brin reviews sci fi films — including The Postman
  • a compilation of great sf books to read
  • recommended sf films
  • science fiction that teaches
  • nonfiction explorations

  • The Transparent Society
  • privacy, security, accountability and transparency
  • designing and crafting our amazing 21st Century
  • predicting and projecting our near and far future
  • leading and following our politics and economy
  • keeping track of changes in science and technology
  • scanning our sky for habitable (inhabited?) worlds
  • an ornery, contrary blog, and other insightful rants!

    Do not enter if you want a standard "Party" line! Contrary Brin's community pokes at too-rigid orthodoxies, proposing ideas and topics that fascinate and infuriate.

    wormholes

    A few spacetime anomalies and side-trips, for your entertainment.

    Questions? Concerns? Email Me

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    testimonials

    reviews and recommendations

    praise for Insistence of Vision

    "David Brin excels at the essential craft of the page turning, which is to devise an elegantly knotted plot that yields a richly variegated succession of high-impact adventures undergone by an array of believably heroic characters."
    — Entertainment Weekly

    Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

    Like E E "Doc" Smith before him, Brin gives joy and imparts a Sense of Wonder; but he also thinks about the near world.

    praise for Existence

    "Science fiction fans were finally given what they crave: Real science explained and possible science dreamed, all wrapped up in an excellent story. After reading it, you feel like you've done an A-level and experienced a cultural event. Daring yet plausible, challenging yet rewarding, it raised the bar for grown-up alien contact sci-fi."
    The Sun (UK) Best of 2012

    Facebook Headquarters

    "It was a great honor to have you speak on campus. I am a huge fan of your books, and you did not disappoint in person. You achieve a rare combination of originality, intellectual rigor, and fun."

    final thoughts ...

    ... for this page, at least ...

    an excerpt from The Postman

    Prelude: The Thirteen-Year Thaw

    Chill winds still blew. Dusty snow fell. But the ancient sea was in no hurry.

              The Earth had spun six thousand times since flames blossomed and cities died. Now, after sixteen circuits of the Sun, plumes of soot no longer roiled from burning forests, turning day into night.
              Six thousand sunsets had come and gone — gaudy, orange, glorious with suspended dust — ever since towering, superheated funnels had punched through to the stratosphere, filling it with tiny bits of suspended rock and soil. The darkened atmosphere passed less sunlight — and it cooled.
              It hardly mattered anymore what had done it — a giant meteorite, a huge volcano, or a nuclear war. Temperatures and pressures swung out of balance, and great winds blew.
              All over the north, a dingy snow fell, and in places even summer did not erase it.
              Only the Ocean, timeless and obstinate, resistant to change, really mattered. Dark skies had come and gone. The winds pushed ocher, growling sunsets. In places, the ice grew, and the shallower seas began to sink.
              But the Ocean's vote was all important, and it was not in yet.
              The Earth turned. Men still struggled, here and there.
              And the Ocean breathed a sigh of winter.

    The Cascades

    1

    In dust and blood — with the sharp tang of terror stark in his nostrils — a man's mind will sometimes pull forth odd relevancies. After half a lifetime in the wilderness, most of it spent struggling to survive, it still struck Gordon as odd — how obscure memories would pop into his mind right in the middle of a life-or-death fight.
              Panting under a bone-dry thicket — crawling desperately to find a refuge — he suddenly experienced a recollection as clear as the dusty stones under his nose. It was a memory of contrast — of a rainy afternoon in a warm, safe university library, long ago — of a lost world filled with books and music and carefree philosophical ramblings.
              Words on a page.
              Dragging his body through the tough, unyielding bracken, he could almost see the letters, black against white. And although he couldn't recall the obscure author's name, the words came back with utter clarity.

              "Short of Death itself, there is no such thing as a 'total' defeat.... There is never a disaster so devastating that a determined person cannot pull something out of the ashes — by risking all that he or she has left....
              "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a desperate man."

              Gordon wished the long-dead writer were here right now, sharing his predicament. He wondered what pollyannaish glow the fellow might find around this catastrophe.
              Scratched and torn from his desperate escape into this dense thicket, he crawled as quietly as he could, stopping to lay still and squeeze his eyes shut whenever the floating dust seemed about to make him sneeze. It was slow, painful progress, and he wasn't even sure where he was headed.
              Minutes ago he had been as comfortable and well-stocked as any solitary traveler could hope to be, these days. Now, Gordon was reduced to not much more than a ripped shirt, faded jeans, and camp moccasins — and the thorns were cutting them all to bits.
              A tapestry of fiery pain followed each new scratch down his arms and back. But in this awful, bone-dry jungle, there was nothing to do but crawl onward and pray his twisting path did not deliver him back to his enemies — to those who had effectively killed him already.
              Finally, when he had come to think the hellish growth would never end, an opening appeared ahead. A narrow cleft split the brush and overlooked a slope of tumbled rock. Gordon pulled free of the thorns at last, rolled over onto his back, and stared up at the hazy sky, grateful simply for air that wasn't foul with the heat of dry decay.
              Welcome to Oregon, he thought bitterly. And I thought Idaho was bad.
              He lifted one arm and tried to wipe the dust out of his eyes.
              Or is it that I'm simply getting too old for this sort of thing? After all, he was over thirty now, beyond the typical life expectancy of a postholocaust traveler.
              Oh Lord, I wish I was home again.
              He wasn't thinking of Minneapolis. The prairie today was a hell he had struggled for more than a decade to escape. No, home meant more to Gordon than any particular place.
              A hamburger, a hot bath, music, Merthiolate...
              ... a cool beer...
              As his labored breathing settled, other sounds came to the fore — the all too clear noise of happy looting. It rose from a hundred feet or so down the mountainside. Laughter as the delighted robbers tore through Gordon's gear.
              ... a few friendly neighborhood cops... Gordon added, still cataloging the amenities of a world long gone.
              The bandits had caught him off guard as he sipped elderberry tea by a late afternoon campfire. From that first instant, as they charged up the trail straight at him, it had been clear that the hot-faced men would as soon kill Gordon as look at him.
              He hadn't waited for them to decide which to do. Throwing scalding tea into the face of the first bearded robber, he dove right into the nearby brambles. Two gunshots had followed him, and that was all. Probably, his carcass wasn't worth as much to the thieves as an irreplaceable bullet. They already had all his goods, anyway.
              Or so they probably think.
              Gordon's smile was bitterly thin as he sat up carefully, backing along his rocky perch until he felt sure he was out of view of the slope below. He plucked his travel belt free of twigs and drew the half-full canteen for a long, desperately needed drink.
              Bless you, paranoia, he thought. Not once since the Doomwar had he ever allowed the belt more than three feet from his side. It was the only thing he had been able to grab before diving into the brambles.
              The dark gray metal of his .38 revolver shone even under a fine layer of dust, as he drew it from its holster. Gordon blew on the snub-nosed weapon and carefully checked its action. Soft clicking testified in understated eloquence to the craftsmanship and deadly precision of another age. Even in killing, the old world had made well.
              Especially in the art of killing, Gordon reminded himself. Raucous laughter carried up from the slope below.
              Normally he traveled with only four rounds loaded. Now he pulled two more precious cartridges from a belt pouch and filled the empty chambers under and behind the hammer. "Firearm safety" was no longer a major consideration, especially since he expected to die this evening anyway.
              Sixteen years chasing a dream, Gordon thought. First that long, futile struggle against the collapse... then scratching to survive through the Three-Year Winter... and finally, more than a decade of moving from place to place, dodging pestilence and hunger, fighting goddamned Holnists and packs of wild dogs... half a lifetime spent as a wandering, dark age minstrel, play-acting for meals in order to make it one day more while I searched for...
              ... for someplace...
              Gordon shook his head. He knew his own dreams quite well. They were a fool's fantasies, and had no place in the present world.
              ... for someplace where someone was taking responsibility...
              He pushed the thought aside. Whatever he had been looking for, his long seeking seemed to have ended here, in the dry, cold mountains of what had once been eastern Oregon.
              From the sounds below he could tell that the bandits were packing up, getting ready to move off with their plunder. Thick patches of desiccated creeper blocked Gordon's view downslope through the ponderosa pines, but soon a burly man in a faded plaid hunting coat appeared from the direction of his campsite, moving northeast on a trail leading down the mountainside.
              The man's clothing confirmed what Gordon remembered from those blurred seconds of the attack. At least his assailants weren't wearing army surplus camouflage... the trademark of Holn survivalists.
              They must be just regular, run of the mill, may-they-please-roast-in-Hell bandits.
              If so, then there was a sliver of a chance the plan glimmering in his mind just might accomplish something.
              Perhaps.
              The first bandit had Gordon's all-weather jacket tied around his waist. In his right arm he cradled the pump shotgun Gordon had carried all the way from Montana. "Come on!" the bearded robber yelled back up the trail. "That's enough gloating. Get that stuff together and move it!"
              The leader, Gordon decided.
              Another man, smaller and more shabby, hurried into view canning a cloth sack and a battered rifle. "Boy, what a haul! We oughta celebrate. When we bring this stuff back, can we have all the 'shine we want, Jas?" The small robber hopped like an excited bird. "Boy, Sheba an' the girls'll bust when they hear about that lil' rabbit we drove off into the briar patch. I never seen anything run so fast!" He giggled.
              Gordon frowned at the insult added to injury. It was the same nearly everywhere he had been — a postholocaust callousness to which he'd never grown accustomed, even after all this time. With only one eye peering through the scrub grass rimming his cleft, he took a deep breath and shouted.
              "I wouldn't count on getting drunk yet, Brer Bear!" Adrenaline turned his voice more shrill than he wanted, but that couldn't be helped.
              The big man dropped awkwardly to the ground, scrambling for cover behind a nearby tree. The skinny robber, though, gawked up at the hillside.
              "What...? Who's up there?"
              Gordon felt a small wash of relief. Their behavior confirmed that the sons of bitches weren't true survivalists. Certainly not Holnists. If they had been, he'd probably be dead by now.
              The other bandits — Gordon counted a total of five — hurried down the trail carrying their booty. "Get down!" their leader commanded from his hiding place. Scrawny seemed to wake up to his exposed position and hurried to join his comrades behind the undergrowth.
              All except one robber — a sallow-faced man with salt-and-pepper sideburns, wearing an alpine hat. Instead of hiding he moved forward a little, chewing a pine needle and casually eyeing the thicket.
              "Why bother?" he asked calmly. "That poor fellow had on barely more than his skivvies, when we pounced him. We've got his shotgun. Let's find out what he wants."
              Gordon kept his head down. But he couldn't help noticing the man's lazy, affected drawl. He was the only one who was clean shaven, and even from here Gordon could tell that his clothes were cleaner, more meticulously tended.
              At a muttered growl from his leader, the casual bandit shrugged and sauntered over behind a forked pine. Barely hidden, he called up the hillside. "Are you there, Mister Rabbit? If so, I am so sorry you didn't stay to invite us to tea. Still, aware how Jas and Little Wally tend to treat visitors, I suppose I cannot blame you for cutting out."
              Gordon couldn't believe he was trading banter with this twit. "That's what I figured at the time," he called. "Thanks for understanding my lack of hospitality. By the way, with whom am I speaking?"
              The tail fellow smiled broadly. "With whom...? Ah, a grammarian! What joy. It's been so long since I've heard an educated voice." He doffed the alpine hat and bowed. "I am Roger Everett Septien, at one time a member of the Pacific Stock Exchange, and presently your robber. As for my colleagues..."
              The bushes rustled. Septien listened, and finally shrugged. "Alas," he called to Gordon. "Normally I'd be tempted by a chance for some real conversation; I'm sure you're as starved for it as I. Unfortunately, the leader of our small brotherhood of cutthroats insists that I find out what you want and get this over with.
              "So speak your piece, Mister Rabbit. We are all ears."
              Gordon shook his head. The fellow obviously classed himself a wit, but his humor was fourth-rate, even by post-war standards. "I notice you fellows aren't carrying all of my gear. You wouldn't by some chance have decided to take only what you needed, and left enough for me to survive, would you?"
              From the scrub below came a high giggle, then more hoarse chuckles as others joined in. Roger Septien looked left and right and lifted his hands. His exaggerated sigh seemed to say that he, at least, appreciated the irony in Gordon's question.
              "Alas," he repeated. "I recall mentioning that possibility to my compatriots. For instance, our women might find some use for your aluminum tent poles and pack frame, but I suggested we leave the nylon bag and tent, which are useless to us.
              "Um, in a sense we have done this. However, I don't think that Wally's... er, alterations will meet your approval."
              Again, that shrieking giggle rose from the bushes. Gordon sagged a little.
              "What about my boots? You all seem well enough shod. Do they fit any of you, anyway? Could you leave them? And my jacket and gloves?"
              Septien coughed. "Ah, yes. They're the main items, aren't they? Other than the shotgun, of course, which is nonnegotiable."
              Gordon spat. Of course, idiot. Only a blowhard states the obvious.
              Again, the voice of the bandit leader could be heard, muffled by the foliage. Again there were giggles. With a pained expression, the ex-stockbroker sighed. "My leader asks what you offer in trade. Of course I know you have nothing. Still, I must inquire."
              As a matter of fact, Gordon had a few things they might want — his belt compass for instance, and a Swiss army knife.
              But what were his chances of arranging an exchange and getting out alive? It didn't take telepathy to tell that these bastards were only toying with their victim.
              A fuming anger filled him, especially over Septien's false show of compassion. He had witnessed this combination of cruel contempt and civilized manners in other once-educated people, over the years since the Collapse. By his lights, people like this were far more contemptible than those who had simply succumbed to the barbaric times.
              "Look," he shouted. "You don't need those damn boots! You've no real need for my jacket or my toothbrush or my notebook, either. This area's clean, so what do you need my Geiger counter for?
              "I'm not stupid enough to think I can have my shotgun back, but without some of those other things I'll die, damn you!"
              The echo of his curse seemed to pour down the long slope of the mountainside, leaving a hanging silence in its wake. Then the bushes rustled and the big bandit leader stood up. Spitting contemptuously upslope, he snapped his fingers at the others. "Now I know he's got no gun," he told them. His thick eyebrows narrowed and he gestured in Gordon's general direction.
              "Run away, little rabbit. Run, or we'll skin you and have you for supper!" He hefted Gordon's shotgun, turned his back, and sauntered casually down the trail. The others fell in behind, laughing.
              Roger Septien gave the mountainside an ironic shrug and a smile, then gathered up his share of the loot and followed his compatriots. They disappeared around a bend in the narrow forest path, but for minutes afterward Gordon heard the softly diminishing sound of someone happily whistling.
              You imbecile! Weak as his chances had been, he had spoiled them completely by appealing to reason and charity. In an era of tooth and claw, nobody ever did that except out of impotence. The bandits' uncertainty had evaporated just as soon as he foolishly asked for fair play.
              Of course he could have fired his .38, wasting a precious bullet to prove he wasn't completely harmless. That would have forced them to take him seriously again....
              Then why didn't I do that? Was I too afraid?
              Probably, he admitted. I'll very likely die of exposure tonight I but that's still hours away, far enough to remain only an abstract threat, less frightening and immediate than five ruthless men with guns.
              He punched his left palm with his fist.
              Oh stuff it, Gordon. You can psychoanalyze yourself this evening, while you're freezing to death. What it all comes down to, though, is that you are one prize fool, and this is probably the end.
              He got up stiffly and began edging cautiously down the slope. Although he wasn't quite ready to admit it yet, Gordon felt a growing certainty that there could only be one solution, only one even faintly possible way out of this disaster.

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