Let me tell you about a story that happened well before we had internet. Well before emails were a way of communication. Before we had mobile phones and easy communication methods at our disposal.
This is when “The Mailman” takes place. This is the story of horrifying abuse of power (as mailmen and mailwomen are federal government officials) and complaining of the contents of the mail is not the post office’s issue. A small town in Arizona is shocked by an unexpected suicide. The old mailman dies and very suddenly is replaced with this new guy, a thin ginger bloke who has a dark plan with the village. And the only thing he relies on is people opening and reading their mail.
At first I was wondering whether the main character is paranoid and simply has a bad feeling about the new starter which degenerates in wild characteristics being assigned to the mailman. When he smiles, his smile is chilling. When he talks, his talk is deep. When something goes wrong, he smirks and looks like he’s gloating.
All of these traits are usually assigned to people when there is previous knowledge of their character and in this specific instance, there didn’t seem to be any other description of the Mailman than through the eyes of the narrator.
The daily actions of the mailman- delivering mail – starts being obsessively observed by the narrator. The tons of “good” mail arriving is offset by the lack of junk mail and bills. When the electricity and water get turned off and the reason appears to be a letter sent by someone else pretending to be the narrator asking for the utilities to be shut down – that’s the only point where we start suspecting there is some foul play at work.
What we see unfolding in the book is a classic “man in the middle attack” and “identity theft” – two very real threats in today’s online world. We basically have a third party intercepting all communication and altering it to suit his motives. He also pretends to be someone else in order to get the village in a state of despair. Rumours start spreading, dogs are poisoned, the postmaster goes missing and everyone is suspicious of everyone else. People are receiving body parts and letters from dead relatives. Friends and dear ones in other cities receive vile mail, dark enough to change people’s opinions.
Now – in this story, we find out that the mailman is a sort of a devil who lives off from people reading and sending mail. They “starve” him to death by refusing to engage in his game and manage to save the village.
In real life, you would probably need to act the same way when identifying that there is someone else intercepting your e-mail.
Stop sending it and change communication methods. Either face to face or phone up to confirm things.
Good bits: The book spends a fair amount of time explaining the importance of mail, of being in the loop, of being a part of things via a third party service. I think the message is still important today as it was nearly two decades ago. I think it also presents the dangers of hate mail and identity theft pretty well (the mailman was disabling services for people)
Bad bits: High level of gore. Towards the end, the mailman who had initially only resorted to manipulation through the written word, becomes aggressive and sexually assaults a young teen (11-12). This is gory stuff to begin with and it gets worse. A woman is found dead in a bathtub raped with a baseball bat and split upwards with a knife. The mailman also kills the chief of police. If you have the mailman actually being able to be physically threatening, how come he didn’t just go on a murder spree the moment he came to town? Or maybe he was just a psychopath feeding off bad feelings and mildly annoying people by making them queue in a heated room.
Reminded me of Stephen King * Needful Things Book Review
It’s a good book but a wee bit outdated. 3/5