Level 7
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Level 7

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  768 ratings  ·  84 reviews
Level 7 is the diary of Officer X-127, who is assigned to stand guard at the "Push Buttons," a machine devised to activate the atomic destruction of the enemy, in the country’s deepest bomb shelter. Four thousand feet underground, Level 7 has been built to withstand the most devastating attack and to be self-sufficient for five hundred years. Selected according to a psycho...more
Paperback, 200 pages
Published June 24th 2004 by University of Wisconsin Press (first published 1959)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,579)
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Erik Graff
Jan 18, 2012 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cold war fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
I read this book during the 1961 Berlin crisis while still in primary school. Science fiction was already an addiction and I'd put away a book or two a day when school wasn't in session. Politics was also of interest since Dad had been a vocal supporter of Kennedy against Nixon the previous year as well as active in community affairs. Indeed, he took me to village board meetings, encouraging my interest in public affairs and reading of the newspaper.

The Berlin crisis had lasted from the previous...more
Diana Welsch
Level 7 is the tale of a military man who lives in a bunker 4,400 feet below the surface of the earth. His job is to sit in a room and wait for the command to push a series of buttons which will unleash complete nuclear destruction on the earth. He is not told why he is to go into the bunker beforehand, and when he gets there he finds out that he must spend the rest of his life there.

He's not the only one down there. There are two more people like him who wait in shifts for the command to come....more
John Stephen
This is one of those books that rewards patient reading--its cumulative power is immense. We follow the diary of a man who lives on Level 7 of a bunker where the best and brightest go in a kind of experiment to see how humans would endure extended life in isolation after a nuclear holocaust. The details of day to day life are interesting enough, but the growing sense of dread that one day the alarms may go off and our protagonist will have to do the one simple action that is his duty in case of...more
***Review below contains some spoilers.***

Bleak. With no chance of redemption whatsoever. If you like happy endings, you might want to stay away from this book.

This book is quiet similar to On the Beach and Alas, Babylon, both in the era in which they were published and the primary subject matter with which they deal: nuclear apocalypse. While I personally found On the Beach totally unimpressive and a drag, Alas, Babylon became one of my favorite novels.

So where does "Level 7" stand?

Well, whi...more
"I am the god who pushed the buttons," says the narrator, a dull nuclear weapons technician who happens to be the proximate cause of starting World War III. Later, he apologizes for this atypical and unprofessional lapse into poetry.
Level 7 isn't truly a book that I just read. It's a book that I've just re-read, which is a bit different. With over 25 years since the first reading, however, my views and appreciation for the art intrinsic in the novel have changed a bit.

First off, I should say that the copy I first read was without the preface found in my new copy. For first time readers I'd recommend reading that preface after the whole of the novel. It's rather heavy-handed in reinforcing the spin of the novel and rather ru...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
What I found most disturbing about this novel was not the hopelessness of the Level 7 dwellers, buried thousands of feet beneath the earth, then assigned to annihilate humanity and continue living for 500 years. I suppose we've heard that story before and become dulled to the prospect of a fusion armageddon. I was more repelled by the personalities of the individuals on level 7. X-127 guesses that they must have all been chosen for their mission because they don't like others, and are all somewh...more
No Remorse
This book starts off really good and grabs your attention right away, and it ends even better. Its basically about a man who is in training and gets promoted and taken 4,300 feet below ground to do his job, with a select group of other people. The earth is scorched due to nuclear war and the only survivors are those who went underground. The book is written in a diary format as the main character enters level 7 and all the way until the end. This is a must read if you ask me, great book... well...more
I just finished reading Wool, another post-apocalyptic book about life underground, and decided it was time to read Level 7 again. About ten years ago my teenage son and I both read it and agreed it was quite good.

Level 7 is written in the form of a diary. It is the diary of a military man who has been assigned to Level 7, a subterranean command post/bomb shelter that has been built to endure for 500 years if need be. The personnel who are “stationed” here are technicians, doctors, psychologist...more
I'm not sure where this book would rank on my list if I re-read it now - but it left an indelible mark on the mind of my twelve-year-old self. Aside from weeks of nightmares about an atomic war, it’s influenced my opinion of every other post-apocalyptic novel I’ve read since . . . usually to their detriment, as none of them ever hit me emotionally in quite the same way.
Patrick Gibson
I am so glad this novel is now available in e-book form. I read it in high school, loved it, and have wanted to read it again. I’m sure that beat up library copy was out of print even then. What? I just noticed it was published in 1960. No wonder it was in crappy condition and smelled of mildew. I am even more impressed the story feels so 2011ish.

The story is told in diary form, written by a missile technician only known as x-127. The story starts out as the solider x-127 and 250 other soldiers...more
Michelle Kisner
Very chilling book. I have always been obsessed with stories/films about nuclear holocaust. This is an older book, written during the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia. As was common at that time, the story focuses on the absurdness of the concept of "Mutual Assured Destruction", wherein if two parties are engaging in nuclear war, both sides try to completely destroy the enemy even if they themselves have already been decimated.

Level 7 revolves around a multi-level underground bunker that hol...more
I struggled with whether to give this three or four stars. I settled on four because any novel written almost 55 years ago that feels this fresh and relevant is really quite remarkable.
While reading, I found myself wishing that more detail had been given, and time devoted, to background and personal information about the characters, particularly the narrator. I suppose, however, that it was more effective to maintain the "nuclear war mentality" by not making it so much a human story as an inhum...more
This is a book from 1959, written at the height of the cold war. The premise is that two opposing countries are preparing for nuclear war and some military people are assigned to the deepest level shelters to survive the war. Of course, eventually everyone dies.

The story revolves around one soldier whose job is to push the buttons that will detonate the missiles when prompted by the automated voice. Throughout his stay on level 7, he keeps a journal and records his impressions, thoughts and fee...more
Sep 16, 2007 Sheehan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: apocalit fans
Pretty straight-forward post-nuke serving of the everyman, the consummate serviceman, "cog-in-the-wheel." A pretty enjoyable treatment on the power of passivity, I think this might be a good preface to reading the Stranger (finish strong of course), both are heavy with the hand of hopelessness, resolved faith in the faithless, it's worth a read.
Raegan Butcher
May 02, 2008 Raegan Butcher rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: peacniks & war-mongers
Grim and horrifying depiction of life in an underground bunker, waiting to unleash the missiles that will destroy the outside world, then doing just that and reaping the consequences. Written in first person diary form. Highly recommended.
I like books about the end of the world.I know, call me weird! This was different than most I've read. It was kind of chilling and the personalized approach made it all the more real.
Jul 27, 2011 Medina added it
Shelves: dystopia
I am disturbed, but this is probably the most realistic ending to a post apoctalipic everyone live underground story I have ever read.
Mark Speed
I didn't realise this was such a seminal sci-fi novel until coming to write this review. It would explain why it was in the library at university (which had very little fiction).

It's still fresh in my mind after nearly 24 years. I will give you this advice when you read it. When reading it, you might think that the writer is an idiot. It's written in the first person, and the protagonist is... a bit of an idiot. It would have been easy for the author to write it in an intelligent way to make his...more
I think this one will stick with me for quite some time.
This novel is a post-apocalypse novel written during the Cold War. It is in the form of a diary written by the main character Officer X-127.

Officer X-127 lives in a underground bunker where he has an group of personnel to take care of his everyday needs. His job is to push buttons to active nuclear missiles on the command of another person.

The novel was very good because of the attitudes of the main character. He is cold, heartless and merciless yet you can understand why he feels this way. He...more
The Snowman
Damn. Well this book was fucking dark. No question. I would say it is similar to Nevil Shute's On the Beach. More like if On the Beach had a baby with McCarthy's The Road you'd get Level 7. If morbid curiosity propels you forward, then this book is for you.

I think Level 7 does a really good job showcasing the futility, the frustration and fear that the Cold War and its mutually assured destruction policy instilled on average people. It outlines the limits humanity posed upon itself by using war...more
Paulo "paper books always" Carvalho
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tom Britz
This grim apocalyptic novel speaks some truths that have parallels in today's world. The end of the world in this novel was a nuclear war, but a push button war. There were no battlefields, only instant death. This brought to mind our own uses of drones and other missiles. We no longer see the humanity we destroy, thus making it that much easier to do that, to push that button. Let's hope that reason starts to seep back into humanity, and soon.
Christopher Taylor
Similar to others I read this book back in the early 60's. This was my first book into the realm of Science Fiction. It captured my imagination and has been a good reference to the culture of living under the threat of nuclear world war. What would you do? Where would you go? Those were a few of the questions that I pondered for years after reading it. It is a good read and I would recommend its reading.
Tiffany M.
This book, although dated, gives a very clear warning to the ideas of the time period. The writing I had a problem with, mostly because it was very technical. The technical, monotone writing took away from the experience for me, but I realize that the way it was written was meant to portray the narrator as emotionless.

The entire story is poignant, ironic, and moving. Most of all, it carries the unforgettable message to stop the insanity of nuclear war preparation and nuclear stockpiling before...more
This is a downright spooky book. Much like Kafka would write, no one is identified - just numbers and letters. Nothing personal - all clinical. And how people are picked to go to the different levels is about as cold and calculating as anything can be. Of course, the whole point to the book is about how dehumanized and unpersonalized conflict can be - this is cold and difficult to read. I found myself being pulled along to find out what would happen next but secretly hoping that it would hurry u...more
Great use of naming conventions (X-127 et al.) to avoid identifying any of the characters as belonging to either the Western or Eastern Blocs.

Most (possibly unintentional) hilarious moment was when after (view spoiler), communication between the politicians living underground essentially devolves into verbal sissy slap-fights. The great leaders of their time, resorting to "nuh-uh!"s and...more
I have to say, I haven’t enjoyed a work of fiction this much in quite some time. This is the best dystopia you haven’t heard of in the canon. At the very least, I had never been previously aware of its existence. Tight and crisply plotted, with a marvelous alienation, disregard for humanity, and a cold war era calculation, it is a worthy heir to 1984 and other such works. The essay and the silly outtake from a would-be second novel seemingly added like dvd bonus features are a waste of time and...more
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Roshwald is a professor emeritus of humanities at the University of Minnesota, and a visiting professor at many universities worldwide.
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