A shorter version of this first appeared in the Big Issue on 9th February 2015…
Robot Overlords shows us a near-future where Earth has been invaded and occupied by an overwhelming force of Robots from another world. Everyone has been confined to their homes, and while the Robots’ purpose here is a mystery, they’ve promised to leave after seven years.
So what books would I grab to keep me sane during the occupation…?
SAS Handbook by Jon ‘Lofty’ Wiseman (Harper Collins)
As used by Connor (played by Milo Parker in the film) to identify edible mushrooms, this is the only book I know of with a chapter on how to survive a nuclear explosion, an essential bit of info when your enemy has defeated every army on the planet (though, to be fair, they do make it clear that the odds aren’t great for surviving a nuclear holocaust). Also check out the Homefront chapter, with excellent advice on food storage, rationing, vitamins and filtering and sterilising water. Of course, for when times are really bad, there’s the obligatory bit on drinking urine.
Also available as an App, not that you’ll have any use for that once the robots destroy your phone.
Reader’s Digest DIY Manual (Readers Digest)
In Robot Overlords the Volunteer Corps are humans who have chosen to collaborate with the robots by delivering rations, making repairs etc. But these are exactly the kind of humourless sociopaths you find in every level of bureaucracy (best represented by Robin Smythe, Ben Kingsley’s character in the film), and so you don’t want to be relying on them to fix a leaky tap. I’ve had a copy of this for twenty years and it’s so clearly laid out that even an idiot like me can use it with only the occasional flood and mild electric shock.
Asterix and the Big Fight by Goscinny & Uderzo (Orion Children’s Books)
There are many works of literature to inspire a burgeoning resistance against the invaders, but I can think of none finer than the seventh instalment in the Gaulish saga in which our heroes stage an enormous punch-up to save their village. A bit of genuine light relief in all the trauma.
Cooking For Blokes by Dr. Duncan Anderson and Marian Walls (Sphere)
When the Volunteer Corps deliver your weekly ration of unleavened bread, unidentifiable grey meat, and misshapen vegetables, you’ll need more than a little imagination to keep things exciting and varied at the dinner table. My wife bought me a copy of this when we first started living together and it set me in good stead when all we could afford was unleavened bread, unidentifiable grey meat, and misshapen vegetables.
Great British Songbook (Wise Publications)
And finally, something to keep you going through those long winter nights of the occupation. As a busking level guitarist (ie: a bit rubbish) I can select any one of over 170 songs from Keep The Home Fires Burning and We’ll Meet Again all the way through to erm… Careless Whisper and I Believe In A Thing Called Love. And if you do drive your fellow housemates mad with your caterwauling, then it’s big enough for them to beat you to death with, and makes for good fire fuel.