Phoenix from the Ashes: The Literature of the Remade World

By Carl B. Yoke | Go to book overview

teeters on the brink of becoming a tale of character transformation. Roshwald, however, avoids that: P-867 tears up journal entries for about ten weeks, thus wiping out whatever evidence there may have been for change in X-127. The novel ends with X-127 as a detached reporter of events who only on occasion expresses bitterness. While this weakens the novel severely as literature, it may have been the only possible choice if Roshwald wanted to finish his story. 25 As demonstrated by X-117's fate, a moral, feeling person in Level 7 can be only mad or bent on suicide. X-127 must live if we are to hear the whole story of Level 7.

As he dies at the end of the last entry, he writes the words that have come to represent the values made abnormal in the subterranean society: "friends people mother sun I I" 26--human love, warmth (both literal and metaphorical), and a recognition of the individual, too, have died.

Level 7's picture of World War III is possibly the most terrifying of any yet envisioned, and not only because of the pain and destruction that will result. The vision portrayed, of a world already dead before the bombs fall and little changed afterward, suggests a connection between this death of the heart and the button pushing. And that is the final nihilism, the ultimate nightmare. As apathy and impersonality grow, Roshwald's novel argues, the closer we come to annihilation.

Level 7 shows us the end, the extreme by which we can measure our own passions, commitment, and individuality. The more like the rubber dummies of Level 7 we become, the better our chances of losing hearts and lives--and world.


NOTES
1.
Phoebe Adams, "The Atlantic Bookshelf," Atlantic Monthly, April 1960, p. 112.
2.
Damon Knight, "Books," Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1960, p. 78.
3.
Mordecai Roshwald, Level 7 ( New York: Signet, 1959), p. 7.
7.
Ibid.
14.
P. Schuyler Miller, "The Reference Library," Analog Science Fact and Fiction, November 1960, p. 62.
15.
Knight, p. 77.
16.
Roshwald, p. 101.
17.
Knight, p. 76.

-123-

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