Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Postman

Second book for the Dystopian Challenge. Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian. Author: David Brin

First of all, no wonder Kevin Costner played the main character in the movie (and produced and directed as well) because his most common role in movies is that of the reluctant hero. Just think of him in Waterworld, Field of Dreams, Dances with Wolves, I'm sure there're more.

So The Postman is the story of a reluctant hero. It's 16 years after the Big War and the country is decimated. There are little enclaves of people here and there, scattered about the country, but the cities are pretty much gone. Gordon was a sophomore in college when the Big War happened and has been wandering alone for the past 15 or so years, looking for hints and sparks of intelligence and civilization, for like-minded people who are trying to keep things going. He insists that he is a follower, not a leader, and simply wants to join one of these villages. In the meantime, he travels around like a minstrel, performing bits of Shakespeare in exchange for food and lodging for the night. During his travels, he must deal with the wild, cruel band of survivalists called Holnists, after the teachings of their late leader, Nathan Holn.

One night, just when things are looking bleak for him, he stumbles upon an old U.S. Mail jeep and finds a new way to gain access into the communities without having to perform his little shows anymore. Yet, in the process of living out his farce of being a postman, he inadvertently begins sparking hope in the destitute and down-trodden people.

So a fascinating concept, but the writing left a little bit to be desired. David Brin has written a lot of sci-fi books, but he also has a Ph.D. in space physics. Nothing I like more than someone with a hint of the polymath going on, but there were some things happening with the writing that kept distracting me from the story. There were a lot of repetitive reminders of plot points and character traits that I didn't need. For instance he told how the main character felt so many times, it felt like he was hammering it into my brain. For one thing, I already knew how the character felt because he told me the first time, and I could also read the character's actions and dialogue and get lots of information that way--more meaningful information. There were two sentences that ended with exclamation points, things along the lines of, "And then he threw the man off the cliff!" (I'm not quoting directly.) And once he says that the main character "felt badly" about something.

But these were just a few distractions. The whole concept and theme of the book kept it going no matter what and kept me reading every chance I had. The idea that Gordon had inspired hope and renewed energy in these people resigned to a crappy life by acting out a big lie really interested me.

We started the movie last night. I thought I had seen it before but now I don't think I have, or else I don't remember a blessed thing. We watched about an hour (out of three) so far and it's REALLY different, but not in a bad way. Since I wasn't so concerned about the integrity of the book, but more about the ideas in the book, I really like the movie so far. It gives you the gist of the book, keeping close to characterizations and main ideas, while melding certain characters, settings, and action sequences. I find myself admiring the screenwriter rather than being annoyed at him for changing things so much.

I do recommend this book, but, as with A Canticle for Leibowitz, you have to be in the mood.


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