by David Brin
Men can be brilliant and strong, they whispered to one another. But men can be mad, as well. And the mad ones can ruin the world.
It is 2012, some sixteen years after all out war sends the world -certainly the United States- into total chaos. Nuclear war destroyed all U.S. cities and left a wake of radiation and fallout that killed off the vast majority of the population. But the U.S. may have recovered as a nation if large groups of violent "survivalists," or vicious, opportunistic pseudo-Darwinists, hadn't organized to plunder what was left... Damn those Holnists to hell!
The story is about the unlikely hero, Gordon Krantz, who changes things through a lie he initially starts telling in order to ensure his survival. He is a survivor, a wanderer, in search of some semblance of civilization in a land rife with separatist violence, starvation and... well, you get the idea. Just as he is finally about to meet his own end he happens upon an abandoned U.S. mail truck with the skeleton of it's driver still in the seat. He takes the deceased postman's uniform and two bags of 16 year old mail and sets out with a new scheme to trade the illusion of a restored postal system -and thereby the beginnings of a "Restored United States"- for food and shelter. He underestimates the old, worn out uniform's power as a symbol of hope.
I really enjoyed this book. It's an exciting plot. It also has some unique insights as a work of social commentary. If you are poring through the catalogue of good post apocalypse fiction, this one should be somewhere on your list.
I didn't want to mention the movie, which was lame, and I certainly didn't want to say the obvious "the book is better", but something needs to be said about how incredibly screwed up the movie is. It is an unprecedented butchering of an excellent novel.
Anyway, this is a pretty exciting novel. I recommend it.