This is the book which the film The Postman [DVD] [1998
]is based upon apparently but I would say that it is very loosely based upon the book.
There is essentially a play on words within the title, the book is narrated in the third person, has a good pace and poses many philosophical questions in the opening chapters, it weaves the back story of apocalypse into the storyline of the travels of a contemporary of the post-apocalyptic world well but Brin has really gone all out to include as many futuristic themes as possible into a single story.
This is the reason why the book differs so much from the more straight forward story featured in the film of world wary wanderer vs. philistine nobody turned dictator.
To a point there are parallels, there is a wanderer who does stumble upon a deceased post man in a van and does decide loot the post van and take the postmans coat, the idea that villagers will invite outsiders to father children where sterility has afflicted husbands features but does not develop as a love interest as in the film, although from this point the book departs majorly from the plot of the film.
Brin's account of the end of times is different from that of most other post-apocalypse authors in that it is more a matter of society withering on the branch than war. Complicity and decadence breed an assurity which is quickly confounded when a confluence of unrelated crisis, outbreaks of disease, anti-technology riots (similar to the "simplification" featured in A Canticle for Leibowitz (Bantam Spectra Book)
) and this is all told well through reflections on things like scarcity (shortages in tooth powder, anesthesia or medicine), the rise of survivalism (when a tipping point is reached beyond which people lose any hope that the authorities will recover the former order and prosperity). Its also a humanised account since the protagonist of the tale is a survivor of former times and not recalling or researching a distant past (as in Leibowitz) and he considers the cheapness of human life and the cruelty and capriciousness which has become the norm in contrast to his own efforts, with others, to try and volunteer in a socially conscientious manner as things began to collapse.
A recurrent and interesting theme is what provides survivors with hope, obviously the idea that a postal service while reconnect people is one hope but there are also some great reflections on technology and sentient machines which are totally abscent from the film.
It is a little disappointing then, when towards the end of the book, it turns into a bit of an action novel, with a guerilla struggle between settlements and then the introduction of characters into the storyline which made me think of either the incredible hulk or super mutants from the Fallout series of post-apocalypse role playing games. However I dont think this despoils the novel altogether. Not at all, although it does feel a little like genre hopping or something which could have made for a seperate sequel.
I really recommend this book, its not better than A Canticle for Leibowitz (Bantam Spectra Book)
but its a good read in its own right.