I know most people seem to have hated Kevin Costner’s adaptation of The Postman, but I remember really loving that film. I hadn’t realized it was based on a novel by David Brin. The setting and the main characters are similar, but the stories turned out to be quite different.
The story takes place in our world, but after it’s been ruined by nuclear war. This left all technology disabled and all society scrambling. Gordon Krantz is just trying to survive, traveling from town to town and acting out scenes from Shakespeare for food and supplies. He stumbles across a United States Post Office uniform and mail bag, and is soon mistaken for an actual postman. He uses this to gain acceptance at first, but eventually the lies spiral out of control and he becomes a reluctant symbol of hope.
I hadn’t realized the movie was so different from the source. Technology and feminism are two big themes in the novel that were completely taken out for the movie script. Pre-war, we had created artificially intelligent supercomputers, and there is hope after the war that they still exist. People see technology as something that could help save them. This is one thing I really loved about the novel. For once, it wasn’t technology that brought us to ruin in the end, as happens in so many science fiction stories. Science fiction as a whole seems to have this undercurrent of anti-technology, or fear of technology, that can grow tiresome.
There’s a group of women in the novel who eventually rise up, deciding that men have an inherent lean towards destruction, and that it was them having leadership before the war that led to the apocalypse. They feel that women need to rule and guide men for society to live in peace, and there’s a lot of musing around this in the last half of the book. It was one of the more juvenile and heavy-handed perspectives on feminism I think I’ve ever read, and it was focused on enough throughout the book to come across as a serious proposition. It felt like bizarre, misguided pandering.
I enjoyed both the novel and the movie. The novel certainly had more depth, it focused a lot more on ideas than on heartwarming Hollywood scenes, but a lot of the depth felt a bit half-baked. With the cringe-worthy take on feminism and the very out-of-place and silly ending plucked out, it could have been really great.