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The Postman

From Academic Kids

The Postman is also the English title of the 1994 Italian film, Il Postino.

The Postman (1985) is a post-apocalyptic novel by David Brin. A drifter stumbles across the uniform of an old United States Postal Service letter carrier and gives hope to a community threatened by local warlords with empty promises of aid from the "Restored United States of America". The first two parts were published separately as "The Postman" (1982) and "Cyclops" (1984). Both won Hugo Awards for Best Novella.

A film adaptation, shot in northeastern Washington and central Oregon, was released in 1997, directed by Kevin Costner and starring Costner, Will Patton, Larenz Tate, Olivia Williams, James Russo, Daniel Von Bargen, Tom Petty, Scott Bairstow, and Roberta Maxwell. The film has been listed among the worst films ever; a 2001 episode of The Simpsons portrayed the DVD edition of the film as having a "director's commentary" track which was simply Costner apologizing.

Compared to the film, the book is generally seen to have more substance. Despite the post-apocalyptic scenario, and several actions sequences, the book is largely about civilization and symbols. Each of the three sections deals with a different symbol. The first is the Postman himself, who takes the uniform solely for warmth after he loses everything but his sleeping clothes. He wanders without establishing himself anywhere, and exchanges poorly-played scenes of William Shakespeare for supplies. His reputation as a real postman builds not because of a deliberate fraud (at least initially) but because people are desperate to believe. Later, in the second section, he encounters a community (Corvallis, Oregon) led by Cyclops, apparently a sentient artificial intelligence created at Oregon State University which miraculously survived the cataclysm. However the machine was actually destroyed, and the appearance of it is being maintained by a group of scientists trying to keep hope, order and knowledge alive.

Eventually, in the third section, as the Postman joins forces with the forces of Cyclops in a war against an influx of 'hypersurvivalists' (the concept of survivalists taken to a slave-owning, mysognistic extreme), he begins to find that the survivalists are being pressed from the Rogue River area to the south as well. As the story ends, and he comes close to the survivalist's southern enemy, he begins to find traces of them, primarily in the symbol that they rally behind: the Bear Flag of California. The final scenes give the impression that the three symbols may rally together in an effort to revive civilization.

The hypersurvivalists are more commonly referred to as Holnists, after the founder of their ideal, Nathan Holn. Many times through the book curses are uttered which damn Holn for his actions.

Another message of the plot deals with the backstory of the post-apocalyptic world: specifically, that it was not the electronics-destroying electromagnetic pulses, nor the destruction of major cities, nor the release of various bio-engineered plagues that actually destroyed society: rather, it was the survivalists themselves, those who maintained stockpiles of weapons and ammunition and who preyed on humanitarian workers and other forces of order. The message of this is obviously that what could really destroy civilization is its own members.

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