Author: David Brin
Last Read: December 2012
Quick Summary: In the post-apocalyptic wasteland of America, a man finds a postal worker's uniform and uses it to spread the lie of restoring the United States - giving hope to people threatened with death and destruction, culminating in a struggle with the warlords around him.
“Short of Death itself, there is no such thing as a ‘total’ defeat.… There is never a disaster so devastating that a determined person cannot pull something out of the ashes—by risking all that he or she has left.… “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a desperate man.”
The steely gray eyes were narrow and sad when next he looked up at Gordon. “I found out something, you know. I discovered that the big things don’t love you back. They take and take, and never give in return. They’ll drain your blood, your soul, if you let them, and never let go.
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.
There is power there, slumbering below the surface. And there is magic.
“It’s said that ‘power corrupts,’ but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power. When they do act, they think of it as service, which has limits. The tyrant, though, seeks mastery, for which he is insatiable, implacable.
“The problem is one of balance,” the graying statesman-scientist said to his invention, ignoring Gordon as he contemplated the chessboard. “I’ve put some thought to it. How can we set up a system which encourages individuals to strive and excel, and yet which shows some compassion to the weak, and weeds out madmen and tyrants?”
Of course we can establish constitutional checks and balances, but those won’t mean a thing unless citizens make sure the safeguards are taken seriously. The greedy and the power-hungry will always look for ways to break the rules, or twist them to their advantage.