So I caught The Book of Eli on cable the other day, and though I already knew the story in general terms, seeing it directly raised a question for me.
*** spoiler space for the film, which is not otherwise relevant to this thread ***
The book/MacGuffin Eli’s been carrying around for decades in this post-apocalyptic wasteland, and which the Gary Oldman bad-guy character is desperate to get as he describes how important it is, turns out to be a King James Bible. This kinda strikes me as a fairly useless text in this setting. It might give solace to survivors who vaguely remember the before-time, but it’s not a useful guide to restarting agriculture or manufacturing or even tribal-level politics, let alone the teaching of basic survival skills. Are there single-volume texts that would be far better to hang onto? I recall flipping through an SAS survival guide (I forget which one) and it was chock-full of useful information to increase the odds of survival. Any suggestions?
Well, the mods could decide so, but despite using a movie as a springboard, the topic I was trying to establish has no specific entertainment value (unless, I guess, someone wants to argue that what a post-apocalyptic world needs most is laughter, hence the most important book is a Calvin and Hobbes compilation).
If nothing else, it’s useful as a historical text with very strong mythological uses. (Remember, it’s put on a shelf next to the Torah, Koran, etc…)
The movie itself was surprisingly good, but the stupid ending spoiled everything because:
(1) The subtle-yet-obvious “Christ is Lord” assumption (grrr…)
(2) How the fuck can anyone destroy every single copy of the 2nd most popular book ever printed? (I’m assuming The Lord of the Rings survived the apocalypse…)
(3) Eli’s easily-carried copy of KJV is in braille – which is impossible.
(4) Eli recites the entire Bible from memory, which would’ve taken weeks, if not months. Maybe that’s possible, but I’ll bet he skimmed the “so-and-so begat so-and-so” parts.
(5) Eli’s fucking blind as a bat. Well, maybe his other five senses are attuned enough to grant him the martial arts skill of a Matrix Agent but seriously, I think the Hughes brothers could have done a much better job with the denouement.
While I agree that the bible would be fairly useless in a survival situation, I think you are missing the point as to why the Gary Oldman character wanted to get his hands on that book so badly. A person in possession of the words of the bible has the power to inspire fanatical followers. Cite? History is my cite.
One of my favorite parts of Lucifer’s Hammer is where the JPL genius Dan Forrester is caching his “books to rebuild civilization” before his trek out of the Los Angeles area. In the Fawcett paperback, the scene is on pages 281-284. The book that Forrester carries on him as a proof for the cache is “The Way Things Work, Volume 2.” I’d agree with his choice.
The Foxfire books. You could reconstruct a frontier lifestyle using those. How to build a log cabin. How to dress and preserve meat. How to make soap. How to weave baskets. Beekeeping. Butter churning. Hide tanning. Spinning. Lots of useful stuff.
I have not seen the movie, but in setting up a new society, the Old Testament has a pretty good grasp of basic laws. Don’t steal other people’s stuff, or their wife. Don’t lie. Don’t murder other people. If your dog/bull/other vicious animal hurts someone, you owe them. Help other people. Do good whenever you can. Take care of the poor and the children.
I haven’t seen the movie but I’m assuming some memories of the bible remain. People would remember stories and passages. If Oldman were able to produce the only complete copy of a book that was already regarded as holy, he’d have a powerful tool for asserting his authority as a religious leader.