Level 7 by Mordecai Roshwald

SFReader seems to have had a fresh start, so it looks like the last few reviews I did for them last summer might not appear. Unless I put them here. So here’s one I gave 7 out of 10, Level 7 by Mordecai Roshwald:

Hermetically sealed seven levels down in an underground bunker in an unspecified country at an unspecified time, 500 military personnel prepare to cause and then outlast (at least through their descendants) the nuclear devastation of the Earth, all in the name of defence and the continuation of a treasured way of life. A way of life which, naturally, they must leave behind forever. Presented as part of the findings of a Martian archaeological expedition to Earth in the far future, the diary of Officer X-127 recounts the lead-up to all-out war and the obliteration of life on Earth.

The diary format works quite well, revealing details of life underground from a personal viewpoint, and it also makes for quite a quick read. The elaborately arranged set-up is explained gradually as X-127 finds out details himself, thus answering pretty much all of the ‘But how would they manage…’ questions about day-to-day life in the bunker. As well as the technicians needed to keep the community supplied with fresh air and water, there are psychologists, teachers preparing for the new generation, and even a philosopher, determined to prove to the inhabitants that their subterranean dwelling is utopian.

The novel deliberately didn’t specify a location as it was intended to show the general idiocy of nuclear war, no matter who starts it. It certainly illustrates the arrogance of man, the pointlessness of war and the ease of causing destruction in a semi-automated world where death happens at a far remove, not at the end of the sword you hold in your hand. It explores the psychological effects of isolation, and the responsibility of being a part of such destruction; X-127 also spends a lot of time wondering about the differences between existing and really living.

It’s a book to make you stop and think, and despite a slightly old-fashioned tone (it was first published in 1959) is worth a look.

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