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Level 7 (Library of American Fiction) Paperback – June 24, 2004

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Level 7 (Library of American Fiction) + The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two A: The Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time Chosen by the Members of The Science Fiction Writers of America (SF Hall of Fame)
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Editorial Reviews


"It is easily the most powerful attack on the whole nuclear madness that any creative writer has made thus far."—J.B. Priestley

"Eventually, I believe, Roshwald’s remorseless apocalypse will be recognized as one of the masterpieces of anti-utopian literature."—H. Bruce Franklin

"In some ways this story gives the most realistic picture of nuclear war that I have read in any work of fiction."—Linus Pauling

From the Publisher

Library of American Fiction

1959 hardcover, William Heinemann, Ltd.

1989 paperback, Lawrence Hill Books


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Product Details

  • Series: Library of American Fiction
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (May 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299200647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299200640
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Patrick L. Randall VINE VOICE on September 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
Nuclear war is both a fascinating and a terrifying topic for literature. One of the most famous, and affecting, pieces of literature ever written about the aftermath of a nuclear war is "On the Beach" by Nevil Shute. The terror and hopelessness the citizens of Australia feel as the deadly radioactive cloud slowly and inevitably moves towards their continent is palpable and harrowing to read. During the same period that Shute wrote "On the Beach", another noted author, Mordecai Roshwald, wrote an equally compelling novel about the preparations and aftermath of nuclear war, called "Level 7".

"Level 7" is a reference to the deepest level of underground shelters that humanity will be sequestered in should this horrible kind of war come to pass. The perceived importance of the people housed in the respective levels increases with each successive level. Level 1 is simply ordinary citizens who will receive minimal shielding from the bombs. Level 5 has the government and military planners, while Level 6 houses the soldiers who will be in charge of defensive countermeasures during the war, and Level 7 houses those whose horrific (and one-time) task will be to fire the offensive nuclear missiles at the enemy. Level 7 is several thousand feet underground. It is seemingly impervious to the effects of a nuclear attack and is a self-sufficient living environment designed to sustain the survivors (and their offspring) until such time as the surface becomes safe to return to. Those selected for the Level 7 assignment have passed a rigorous set of psychological tests that require said soldiers to not be afraid of firing missiles that can end mankind, to not be concerned with being cut off from humanity, and to be prepared to do what is necessary to ensure humanity's survival.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Mistrmind on March 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
I would consider this book, written in 1954, to be the most sobering book about nuclear war written to date. The story is told in diary form, written by a missle technician only known as x-127. The story starts out as the solider x-127 and 250 other soliders (men and women) head down deep into a underground bunker called Level 7. The bunker is a immense system of tunnels and bunkers about 4000 ft underground. Room enough for the buton pushers, engineers and scientist to continue our way of life after a nuclear holocaust strikes. The mood of the story is grim, as X-127 realizes that once he makes the desent down into Level 7, there is no turning back to the outside world. The government has deemed the soliders in the bunker the saviors of our way of life. They have enough food, water, and air to last them 5 lifetimes.
Well, eventually it gets to a point where a war breaks out. There are not descriptions of nuclear explosions, or firey death raining down on the populace's heads. Instead the author portrays the war through the eyes of radar technicians and button pushers who only see blips on radar screens and are told via a loudspeaker on what buttons to push.
After the war, which is totally destructive. Radiation spreads and wipes out life on the surface. A clautrophobic life in a bunker becomes stiffeling for X-127 has he watches and listens to his fellow soliders start to loose it in a "not so" hermetically sealed bunker.
This story is very sad, and chilling. The last paragraph of the story has to be the most riveting paragraph I've ever read.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By D. Ross on December 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
Level 7 represents the journal of Officer X-127, a member of an elite Armed Forces unit. X-127 has been ordered to the bottom-most layer (level 7) of a highly secure facility, where he is ordered to set off a massive nuclear attack. The facility is a city unto itself, four thousand feet underground and fully prepared to withstand a direct attack and the resulting radiation for many decades.

Chosen for their ability to follow orders and to withstand the confines of the facility, X-127 and his fellow officers must now come to grips with the fact that they may, in fact, never leave. The surface of the Earth has been transformed into a radiological wasteland, but those in the facility -- some of whom represent a "continuity of government" operation -- will be safe.

Or so it seems. Reports of radiation poisoning begin to filter in from the higher levels of the facility. With a gripping, impending sense of doom, Roshwald takes us into a journey into the true meaning of mutually assured destruction.

I first read this book upwards of 30 years ago. It has never left me. Was it because I was young? Impressionable? I don't know, but the book certainly left an indelible footprint in my mind that few, if any, other work can match. Whatever Roshwald constructed in Level 7 was utterly unique and memorable beyond description.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By lrsky52@home.com on April 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
The review written and shown is much to my liking since it captures the essence of the book. It does not, however, present the reality which I felt at the age of 12 years, as I read it. More important than the storyline, is the impact on the reader. With all due respects to the person who adequately and accurately described this work, I feel compelled to let the reader know that the fear and reaction created by the book, because it is so brilliant, is more important than the plot. This is to Nuclear War, as To Kill a Mockingbird is to justice. That is the nature of such a powerful message. Read this book, it is wonderful....
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