->''Who is going to take responsibility?''

[[DividedStatesOfAmerica America has been left in ruins]] in the wake of the [[DoomyDoomsOfDoom Doomwar]], a conflagration of various doomsday scenarios. Seventeen years later, Gordon Krantz, who was a college sophomore before it all came down, struggles to survive in a harsh environment where scavenging and violence is the norm and the [[RightWingMilitiaFanatic vicious, fanatical Holnists]] reign supreme. He has been searching and searching for a place, anywhere, where "someone is taking responsibility." When he is robbed of most of his possessions, Gordon takes the uniform of a long-dead postman for warmth. The simple act of taking up this symbol soon [[SnowballLie snowballs]] into an elaborate tale casting Gordon as an agent of the fictional Restored United States. At first, he maintains this lie only to survive, but as hope springs up in his path, the lie becomes something more.

This 1985 novel by Creator/DavidBrin is most famous for [[TheFilmOfTheBook an adaptation]] made 12 years later [[StarDerailingRole that nearly killed]] Creator/KevinCostner's career.

!!This book provides examples of:
* ANaziByAnyOtherName: Holnists, who firmly believe that the strong should rule the weak, the only possible law is the law of jungle and idealism is only good for retarded kids.
* ActionGirl: Dena and her Scouts.
* ActionSurvivor: Gordon, who most of the time just barely survives.
* AndTheAdventureContinues: The book ends with the Postman departing to find and make contact with [[spoiler: The Republic of California.]]
* AfterTheEnd
* AmazonBrigade: Dena's Army Scouts. [[spoiler: They are almost entirely wiped out after a failed plot to infiltrate and sabotage the Holnists.]]
* AmericaSavesTheDay: In a sense. [[spoiler:In that the Restored United States of America ultimately becomes very much real.]]
* ApocalypseHow: Continental/Societal Collapse. Unusually, there was not one single cause of the Doomwar. In fact, humanity probably could have weathered the nukes, the electromagnetic pulses, and the bioengineered diseases if not for the predatory, hypersurvivalist Holnists who took advantage of the situation.
* TheApunkalypse: The rule of law has collapsed AfterTheEnd, and bands of toughs roam the countryside roughing people up.
* ArcWords: "''Who will take responsibility?''"
* ArtisticLicenseGunSafety: {{Averted}}. [[CombatPragmatist Gordon]] never holds more than four bullets in his revolver, unless it's an emergency or it appears he's doomed. His gun is always secured in its holster. He takes a good care of it and always uses it with an accurate' two-hand grip.
* BadassNormal: One of Gordon's comrades is a former [[SemperFi Marine]], and when both of {{The Dragon}}s are killed off-page while hunting him, the BigBad assumes that he is responsible. [[spoiler: The second Dragon actually killed the Marine, and was killed in turn by [[BigDamnHeroes George Powhattan.]]]]
* BandOfBrothers: Gordon's fellow militiamen. [[spoiler: They have been dead for more than a decade when the story starts]].
* BasedOnAGreatBigLie / LiesToChildren: Gordon the Postman and his Restored United States of America [[spoiler: and Cyclops]].
* BecomingTheMask: Gordon and his Postal Inspector persona. He's ''very'' aware of that.
* BlackComedy: The only comedy allowed. [[TropesAreNotBad And it works]].
* BoringButPractical: Gordon's bow. But before he learned how to use it, it was CoolButInefficient.
* CelibateHero: {{Inverted}}. Gordon wasn't with any women not because he didn't want to be, but because there was no opportunity or suitable woman for a ''long'' while. [[spoiler: When he's with Dena, he's more annoyed with her than aroused]].
* ChekhovsGun: The diary Gordon loses in the beginning shows up toward the end in the hands of [[spoiler: the Holnists]], as does the person who stole it.
* {{Cincinnatus}}: George Powhatan. And Gordon pities the person who tries to make him a king.
* ComesGreatResponsibility: A recurring theme, even if that power is the position of postman.
* ConspiracyTheorist: Nathan Holn, a bat-shit insane nutcase. Everyone, including people born after the Doomwar (and thus lacking any serious education), wonder how he could get any support for his ideas.
* ContrivedCoincidence:
** Gordon finding the postal van while trying to catch up with robbers who just mugged him. It helps in both the short and long term - first providing shelter and clothes, then giving him a perfect U.S. Postal Carrier disguise. This is also an example of the AnthropicPrinciple, as Gordon finding the van and needing to wear the outfit is what starts the story.
** Gordon finding [[spoiler: Dena after being recaptured by Holnists, moments before she expires in his arms]].
* CrazyHomelessPeople: Gordon ''perceives himself'' as such, since he can find no other logical explanation than insanity for his optimism in this CrapsackWorld.
* CrazySurvivalist: The "Holnist Survivalists"; it's explicitly noted that after everything fell apart, Holn himself was dragged out and lynched for getting them started. And that the Holnists forever tainted the term "survivalist".
* DeadpanSnarker: Who else but Gordon? It often borders on SadClown, as he's fully aware how miserable the situation is or can get.
* DividedStatesOfAmerica: So much that there are ''no'' states to divide; a small hamlet is considered quite a big deal.
* DoubleMeaningTitle: Postman, as a mail carrier and a person living after some event. Gordon is both.
* [[spoiler: DoubleStandardRapeFemaleOnMale]]: [[spoiler: Dena is quite forcible with Gordon]]. It seems to keep on going for a while and he's forced to simply endure her.
* TheDrifter: Gordon's ultimate role, after he finally embracess The Call.
* DumbMuscle: Survivalists in general. So dumb that a brick is brighter.
* {{Eagleland}}: Curious case - Type I with all it's liberty, equality and peaceful ways is contrasted with Type II for its paranoia, gung-ho attitude, over-the-top individualism and extremism.
* EqualOpportunityEvil: Holnists, but only if you are male.
* EvilCannotComprehendGood: BIG time; Holnists are completely unable to comprehend anything that is not made or achieved by brute force or how men are supposed to be equal.
* EvilGloating:
** The robbers from the first few pages do it for extra [[KickTheDog dog-kicking]] points.
** Holnists are generally prone to this; the higher their rank, the more they gloat.
* FakeRealTurn: Gordon made up the Restored United States and its postal services, but as he travels and recruits more postmen to his cause, the lie becomes more and more real.
* FirstPersonSmartass: Gordon's consciousness works this way.
* GoodColorsEvilColors: True-blue postal carriers vs. camouflaged Holnists.
* TheGuardsMustBeCrazy:
** ...and lazy, as invoked by Gordon as he easily approaches Oakridge and bypasses its guards right until he reaches the main gate.
** Subverted later on, when [[spoiler: he is captured by the Holnists for the second time. He manages to climb on [[UnwillingSuspension a beam his hands were tied to]]]], but first thing Colonel Bezoar does is [[DangerouslyGenreSavvy look in that direction]] the moment he realises Gordon is missing.
* TheGreatPoliticsMessUp: It's hinted that the Soviet Union survived until the Doomwar or was topped by violent revolution right before it. The war took place in the mid-90's.
* HalfwayPlotSwitch: From a loner faking a postal system to [[spoiler: a war involving superhuman experiments]]!
* TheHerosJourney: The book uses this plot structure to great effect in a post-apocalyptic setting.
* HeroicNeutral: George Powhatan feels he's done his share of fighting before, and it's up to Gordon to persuade him to take on the Holnists.
* HonorAmongThieves:
** As one of the general rules, Holnists do not take retribution for slayed comrades - by their philosophy, if you managed to kill one of them, you are a WorthyOpponent.
** People tend to share their loot if they find it together... sometimes. Otherwise they might [[NoHonorAmongThieves as well kill you for it]].
* HopeBringer: The Postman himself.
* HopeSproutsEternal:
** The seasons in which the action takes place [[RuleOFSymbolism are related with this trope]]. In the first section, it's autumn, where everything is dying. Then the action fast-forwards toward early spring, when Gordon starts setting his Postal Service and things are going smooth. Then the Holnists show up - right when autumn is about to start. The war against them takes place mostly in the winter, when nature is dead and animals struggle to survive. In the end, when [[spoiler: Holnists are defeated and Gordon heads toward California]], it's the beautiful spring of 2012.
** Gordon's dream in the postal car, about a [[{{Eagleland}} giant]] [[ThePhoenix bird]] building itself a pyre and burning on it, after which the surrounding plants starts to sprout new leaves.
* TheHorde: Both the Holnists and the [[EvilLuddite Anti-Tech Mob]]. At least the latter are a thing of the past.
* IgnorantOfTheCall: Played with. Throughout the book Gordon is desperately looking for some strong figure to follow and help make things better, but when he starts his little postal scam, he's completely ignorant of the impact he has as exactly the type of person he was searching for. It completely freaks him out when things go way over any direct control and just keep snowballing further, forcing him to play the role of heroic figure and then slowly becoming one for real.
* InLoveWithTheMark: {{Subverted}}. It's speculated that this could be the reason why [[spoiler: Dena and the Scouts']] plan to infiltrate the Holnists failed.
* InstantAIJustAddWater: Averted. The pre-war [=AI=] computers were a step between real [=AI=] and standard mega-computer, build on specially designed processors and components. Only if running sufficiently long, they could reach true sentience going beyond ability to answer questions and solving equations on their own. [[spoiler: Which makes Cyclops death even more shattering]].
* InverseLawOfUtilityAndLethality: Gordon is a former sophomore of some sociology-themed major who was attending acting group in spare time back then... which helps him all the time in the postwar world.
* {{Irony}}: After impressing inhabitants of Pine View, Gordon is hoping to stay there for a while or even settle with them - something he really wants to do. Instead, they decide to encourage him to further journey, so his grand plan is destroyed. The whole situations keeps on repeating itself each time he reaches new place suitable for settling down in his postal attire - the only one he owns. He keeps thinking about this even when the lie about the Restored United States snowballs into near-reality level.
* IWantMyJetPack: In book's timeline, humanity managed to build computers capable of reaching level of true AI, introduced ''two'' generations of cyborgs and was able to deploy military-grade laser weapon systems. All by mid 90's.
* JustFollowingOrders: Inverted. Gordon is devastated, because he ''doesn't'' issue any orders for his men to follow - they choose by themselves to conduct many barbaric acts to later blame Holnists for them.
* KeystoneArmy: Given how Holnists' ranks work, [[spoiler: [[DecapitatedArmy killing all of their high command in final chapter]]]] inevitably leads to their demise as an organized force. Without that unity they not only become easier targets, but it's also heavily implied [[EnemyCivilWar they start fighting each other for command]], every gorilla for himself.
* KnightInSourArmor: Both Gordon and George Powhatan, who are so sour that it gives them wrinkles. The overarching motive in the story is their realization that the lofty ideas of pre-war world are all that's left worth living and standing for.
* KnowWhenToFoldEm: The main reason Gordon managed to exceed the current life expectancy of thirty years old.
* LaserGuidedKarma: [[spoiler: Roger Septien, the robber from the very first pages of the book, is eventually killed by Johnny when he and Gordon are escaping Holnists [=HQ=]]], as he is unlucky enough to stand on guard in vital spot.
* LifeWillKillYou: It's never clearly stated, but apparently sizable chunk of [[spoiler: militia unit Gordon was serving in]] died out of malnutrition and dental infections caused by low higiene. In fact, the death toll from those was bigger than from attacks they repelled.
* MadeASlave: Anyone captured alive by Holnists. This also includes {{Sex Slave}}s.
* {{Matriarchy}}: And a noble one - Pine View is guided by elderly Mrs Thompson. First chapter is much more prone to use tribalistic references and thus even narration calls her a matriarch few times.
* MedalOfDishonor: Johnny is very thankful for Gordon's sharp mind and that little whistle... while Gordon was busy contemplating abandoning the whole unit and wasted a lot of time on thinking about it instead of acting and thus providing some real advantage.
* MistreatmentInducedBetrayal: The two slaves that [[spoiler: release Gordon and Johnny and help them escape]].
* MundaneLuxury: You know how bad the situation is when a handful of wild berries and a few short gulps of whiskey are considered a celebration-worthy delicacy.
* NoodleIncident: The events before and right after the Doomwar are a long series of those. Things like "Slavic Resurgence", "Cuban problem", "Kenyan front", "Slavic-Turkic War" or "One-Week War" are only mentioned and never truly discussed. [[TropesAreTools Because the past is not important - the present and future are]].
* NormalFishInATinyPond: After spending last fifteen years on wandering through the wasteland, Gordon is ''still'' an easy target for bandits roaming around, but when compared to inhabitants of the Willamette Valley he is extremely experienced scavenger and scout, able to find holes in local defences on the fly or picking one by one small squads of Holnists.
* NostalgiaFilter: Often invoked by different characters toward pre-war world. People tend to sing commercial jingles just to recall good old times.
* NotTooDeadToSaveTheDay: Although they don't take direct action, all of Gordon's "ghosts" - [[spoiler: Cyclops, Johnny Stevens, the Army Scouts, dream-Ben Franklin and his chess-playing stove, etc.]] - appear to encourage him toward the end.
* ObligatoryWarCrimeScene: The Willamette Army on ''their own fallen'', to convince the general public how horrible the Holnists are. Not that the Holnist themselves are saints - collecting genitals and ears of killed enemies is a standard procedure for them, just as rounding up the survivors for slavery and [[SocialDarwinist castrating males they perceive as weak]].
* OfficerAndAGentleman: Deconstructed. Being the most civic person in the whole Willamette Army and de facto commanding officer of it, Gordon is struggling under this role. He openly admits there are better candidates to lead men. And he realises how bad it is to be a gentle philosopher during the war with the worst kind of dishonorable, brutal scums he could stumble upon, but must maintain the strong-willed facade for the sake of morale.
* OneHitKill: Justified, since [[spoiler: Gordon punches Bezoar's jaw]] into his brain. And [[RealityEnsues almost breaks his hand by doing it improperly]].
* OneManArmy: Augments both in their backstory and in-story serve this role quite literally, coming victorious and barely scratched when facing improbable odds. Also, George Powhatan's achievements are ShroudedInMyth, just like he as a person.
* OnlyOneName: It's very easy to miss the fact that Gordon's surname is Krantz. Outside of Pine View, barely anyone addresses him with it.
* PaperThinDisguise: But it works, since Gordon is the only person knowing how he got himself the postman uniform. It's also reasonably downplayed early on, before the whole thing snowballed into becoming self-sustaining. Aside from the uniform, Gordon also forges few documents and has to rely on mail brought from Pine View to gain any real credibility - the uniform is only a sweetener to the hard evidence.
* PrecisionFStrike: As Gordon is about to [[spoiler: [[RefusalOfTheCall leave Corvallis]] ]]:
-->"Survivalists!"
-->He had one word to offer in reply.
-->"Shit."
* ProperlyParanoid: Gordon blesses his paranoia in the beginning, which prevents the thieves from getting his gun at least.
* ProudWarriorRaceGuy: The Holnists, who base a person's worth on his (emphasis on ''his'') strength. This leads them to be a cult of hyperviolent, luddite lunatics who kill without hesitation and enslave anyone weaker than them.
** It's also implied that they and their kind are the reason why civilization ultimately collapsed, having gunned down any attempt at reconstruction they came across.
* RealMenWearPink: The original postman was wearing a colourful parsley shirt under his jacket. He was shot while trying to deliver crucial mail through bandit-infested territory and still had enough resolve to hide his jeep and the correspondence. This becomes handy for Gordon when he finds the body years later - the uniform's shirt was left in mint condition and still well-ironed, waiting in the bag on the passanger seat.
* RefusalOfTheCall: George Powhatan. [[spoiler: Well, he tried]].
* ResignedToTheCall/ TenMinuteRetirement: [[spoiler: see RefusedTheCall. Poor George.]]
* TheReveal:
** [[spoiler: Cyclops is dead]].
** Towards the end of the book, the Postman discovers why the Holnists have been pushing so hard into Oregon. [[spoiler: They are retreating away from an army in the Republic of California]].
* RevolversAreJustBetter: Gordon's most trusted companion and precious possession is a snub nose .38 revolver.
* RuleOfThree: Gordon got three letters for Oakridge. You can guess which one opened the gates to the village to him.
* ScavengerWorld: To the point where only bare essentials are scavenged and anything more complex is left behind.
* SchmuckBait: Only that [[GenreSavvy Gordon is not baiting]]. After being robbed ''again'', he is hiding in the attic and the looters knows he's somewhere in the vicinity.
--> "Sure was nice of that fellow, findin' this for us. Wish we could thank him. Ought to get to know him so we don't shoot first if we ever see him again".
* ScrewThisImOuttaHere: Gordon is [[WhatYouAreInTheDark tempted twice]] to just run away and leave the Willamette Valley to burn:
** After figuring out that [[spoiler: Cyclops is just a benevolent scam used to uphold some remnants of unity and civilisation, he is ready to ride away, especially after learning about advancing Holnist ''army''. But then he clenches his teeth, turns back his horse and [[WeHelpTheHelpless takes command over panicked civilians]] as "the legal representative of the Restored United States, with authority over Northern Oregon and Washington State"]].
** Later, when [[spoiler: the war is getting really bad, he again contemplates ditching the Willamette Valley, especially since he knows Holnists are already encircling his sleeping camp. Instead, he pulls out [[ChekhovsGun his whistle]] and wakes up everyone, organising fierce defense]].
* SerialNovel: The first part of the book was originally published as a short story and later the second one was written as continuation in the same format. The final part was added after Creator/DavidBrin decided to turn it into full-fledged book. It ''shows''. The first part is written in completely different style and with vocabulary aiming to point how primitive the world is. Both first and second part of the book are clearly stand-alone stories. The final part is obviously [[ArcWelding aiming to sew everything together]] into much tighter structure.
* SexyDiscretionShot: Right before Gordon and Abby are about to get busy, the chapter ends. The next one starts after their last encounter. [[TropesAreNotBad It works]], [[ParentalSubstitute given the nature of their deal]].
* SillyRabbitIdealismIsForKids:
** Gordon really ''tries'' to believe that cynicism is an answer, treating idealism as a luxury he can't afford. Yet he's genuinely a good person, who keeps on doing the right things and eventually proves himself that idealism is all what's left to firmly believe in.
** Holnists ideology runs on this trope taken UpToEleven.
* ShamingTheMob: After being finally invited to Powhatan's Sugarloaf Peak fortress Gordon quickly realises lies about the Restored United States won't work here. Instead he ditches all the speeches prepared in advance and calls everyone there out [[ApatheticCitizens on their indifference and lack of action]], when they have all the means and skills needed for the fight against Holnists and how things will turn out if they won't help their neighbours. [[SubvertedTrope It still doesn't work]].
* SherlockScan: How Gordon deducted that [[spoiler: Cyclops is dead and the whole thing is just a masquerade]] - he tied together numerous, disconnected clues and then confronted his theory.
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVsCynicism: Despite all the horrible things that happen, the message of the book is hopeful.
* SmugSnake: General Macklin truly thinks of himself as superior to everyone around and acts accordingly. Not to mention his suicidal level of overconfidence thanks to his cybernetic implants.
* SnowMeansDeath: The third segment starts this way, with bodies of the fallen being buried by the snow.
* SnowballLie: In the process of covering his ass, the Postman accidentally invents a "Restored United States." The myth becomes so widespread that even the Holnists can't stomp it out.
* SoMuchForStealth: When approaching [[spoiler: what he thinks is]] a bandit hideout, Gordon is trying to do it as silently as possible, looking for each of his steps. The moment he turns his gaze from the ground, he instantly steps on a dry twig. [[SelfFulfillingProphecy Right after lampshading this very trope]].
* SortingAlgorithmOfEvil: First robbers, then [[EvilArmy Holnists]], then [[{{Cyborg}} augments]].
* StillWearingTheOldColors: Inverted. Inhabitants of Pine View assume this upon meeting Gordon, while he himself never was a postman to begin with and simply looted the uniform from a dead body to prevent hypothermia. Later the uniform is treated as a sign of re-emerging order when he starts his "Postal Inspector" act.
* StrawFeminist: Dena, [[ZigZaggedTrope sort of]]. She's very heroic despite her possibly-crazy outlook, however. More - she's quite aware that she might have misinterprated many facts about the pre-war world because of SmallReferencePools she has access to.
* SuperSoldiers: The Augments, who were chosen for their violent tendencies, modified [[BodyHorror freakishly]], and deployed several times before the government wised up to what that sort of soldier does during peacetime. Post-Doomwar, they hold the top positions among the villainous Holnists. [[spoiler: George Powhatan is a second generation augment, chosen because he is an ActualPacifist and forcibly transformed with more subtle implants focusing on [[MasterOfYourDomain biofeedback]].]]
* SurvivorGuilt: Gordon doesn't feel too good about the fact that [[spoiler: all his fellow militiamen are dead]]. It's more than a decade and he still labours under the burden of being last man standing.
* TakingYouWithMe: When tracking the muggers in the first chapter, Gordon notes that he will most likely die in the process... but at least the surrounding area will be a bit more safe for future travelers.
* TapOnTheHead: [[spoiler: One of the augments knocks Gordon out after finally finding out who is commanding the defences]]. [[RealityEnsues He fully recovers from it fully few days later, being barely conscious for that time]].
* TaughtByExperience: The Willamette Army is trained this way. And by experience we mean being slaughtered each time they engage Holnists.
* TechnicalPacifist: George Powhatan, a man who is a living legend from his fights against Holnists, yet is very reluctant to enter any conflict. Gordon himself usually is stopped by his "old-fashioned scruples".
* TheyCallMeMisterTibbs: Villainous example
-->'''Charles Bezoar:''' [[BerserkButton That's Colonel Bezoar.]]
* TrainingThePeacefulVillagers: When things turn bad, Gordon has to train [[RagTagBunchOfMisfits bunch of civilians, farmers and teenagers]] into a force capable of fighting or at least putting up organised resistance against [[EvilArmy the Holnist]] [[BadassArmy Army]].
* TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture: The setting was this from the mid-80s perspective. Now it's a full-blown AlternateHistory.
* UnstoppableMailman: The title character.
* UnwillingSuspension: When [[spoiler: Holnists capture Gordon for the second time]], his hands are tied over his head to the beam and he is suspended ''just'' above the ground.
* UtilityBelt: {{Downplayed}}. Gordon's military belt holds his most important belongings: canteen, Swiss army knife, tube of iodine, compass and [[TheLastOfTheseIsNotLikeTheOthers holster with his gun and bullets]]
* WackyWaysideTribe: Gordon recalls all the small communities he had visited in his years of wandering - quite brutal and closed to outsiders, unless [[ARealManIsAKiller equally brutal acts were committed to gain entry]].
* WalkingTheEarth: What Gordon is doing since [[spoiler: his squad of militiamen was wiped out]].
* WasntThatFun: According to Johnny, he had great time while [[spoiler: escaping from Holnists' [=HQ=]]].
* WhatHaveIBecome: The Chairman of Public Safety from Curtin, after realizing how barbaric the life has become. Bonus points for being a former member of the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASPCA ASPCA]], now organizing dog fights. [[ManlyTears He starts to weep over this]].
* WithThisHerring: Gordon starts the book with his UtilityBelt, in torn clothes and a lame excuse for shoes.
* WorthlessYellowRocks: After finding a secret stash in a physician's house, Gordon is praying for it not to be "gold or other useless crap".
* WorthyOpponent: One of the main points of Holnist philosophy is high regard toward people who managed to beat them, but that doesn't mean any quarter in case of being encountered in the future:
** To his own surprise, Gordon is praised for killing of two Holnists he encountered in the library.
** His second-in-command, a former Marine, is equally praised by Macklin for being capable of defeating his [[TheDragon Dragons]].
* ZergRush: The only time the Willamette Army scores any victories are all-around assaults on isolated Holnist positions. They might be though, experienced and ruthless survivalists, but it's not much of use while being simply overrun.
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