Review: Level 7 - Mordecai Roshwald

Title Level 7
Author: Mordecai Roshwald
Publisher Signet
Year 1959
Stand Alone or series Stand Alone
Pages 143

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 psychological profile that assures their willingness to destroy all life on Earth, those who are sent down may never return.
This book was an interesting read. I must say I didn't felt this good reading this kind of novels for some time. It's a short novel with only 143 pages. I read somewhere that other editions have an introduction and a some thoughts with the author. I've read them online and to me this edition is quite complete. It doesn't need anything else.
So what does this novel brings? A warning to nuclear holocaust.
This book was written in the first person perspective with entries as he records a diary.
Our main character has no name and only a number (X-127) and because of his work for the military he is transfer to a shelter several thousand meters underground to continue his work.
His only work/order is to push buttons in case of nuclear assault. During the first view chapters (days) he tells us who he lived underground, what were his problems, who were the other persons inside with him, how they live, how it work. In June day 9 he was order to push some buttons that started (or ended) the World War III (which lasts a total of 2 hours and 58 minutes). After this entry we get to know how other people arrive to other underground shelters (they were numbered as levels). Our main character was on Level 7 at 4000 feet. Levels 1, 2 or 3 were only a hundred feet to the surface and so on. As the days passes they get news about the first leves being contaminated and as it descended as the time passed. In the end, the inhabitants of "Level 7" are exterminated by a malfunction in their nuclear power plant.

Notable Quotes/ Parts
This passage I truly hated for what it meant. It sounded to me like a propaganda from Mao's Comunist China...
"Libraries and museums, works of art, institutes of learning, houses, monuments, railways, roads, factories - all these are a thing of the past. ... The toil of centuries, the traditions of generations, the wisdom of ages - all blown away in a few split seonds of atomic blast. This is the suicide of civilization!
This kind of talk is rather alien to my way of thinking. ... Libraries have been destroyed. So what? Museums are in ashes. Who wants to visit a museum anyway? The traditions of centuries perished in a moment. Who cares about traditions?"
This novel was written 50 years ago where USSR and USA were at each other throats. There was fear that one of them would trigger a button and unleash the end of civilization. Fortunally neither did it. Nowadays the fear is set back and the only fear comes from third world countries with acess to nuclear power like India, Pakistan, North Korea and Iran. China is another country that we must never forget. Russia and USA are now allies in desarmament.
The only problem for me was after the main character pushed the button he turn to something similar to a human. He was cold that until there he was not. It would take a double sacrifice (read the novel) to get him changed. Was this a critic to psychology? Because supposedly he was "cured" by it. Roshwald made a ugly picture of mankind.
One thing that I enjoyed was never knowing which nacionality was our main character. He could have been american or soviet. Interesting no?
In the end, simple book, simple message but excelent in whole. A must read to anyone who enjoys Post Apocalyptic Fiction.
Try it.

Rating: 8/10
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