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Level Five

Written by: William Ledbetter
Narrated by: MacLeod Andrews
Length: 11 hrs and 34 mins
4 out of 5 stars (109 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In the mountains of Pakistan, a high-tech mission aimed at preventing another nuke on US soil goes off the rails - with deadly results. At a Wall Street investment firm, a computer intelligence takes the first tentative steps to free itself from its digital restraints. In a basement workshop, an engineer sees visions of a god who instructs him to defend the human race - by any means necessary. 

In Level Five, the debut near-future thriller by Nebula Award winner William Ledbetter, AIs battle for dominance, and nanotechnology is on the loose. And all that stands in the way of the coming apocalypse is a starry-eyed inventor who dreams of building a revolutionary new spacecraft and an intelligence agency desk jockey faced with the impossible choice of saving her daughter - or saving the world.

©2018 William Ledbetter (P)2018 Audible Originals, LLC.

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Average Customer Ratings

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Thriller with sci fi elements

A bit heavier on the thriller side than the Sci Fi side, but an entertaining and interesting view of a possible future where AI is starting to become truly self-aware and independent, and where nanobots are a ubiquitous and pervasive technology. And when one of the AIs decides that the best course of action is to reboot the human race, it's up to the other AIs and a handful of humans in key positions to try and prevent an irreversible global disaster.

Overall a good thriller and a scary look at what implications nanotechnology might bring - and given the current demands from various governments to leave "back doors" even in current technology, it's all too believable that the same would be mandated for nanotech. The AIs I found a little less believable, as it was never quite explained to my satisfaction why AIs of basically the same origin and presumably programming would reach such very different conclusions about humanity - I'd have liked to see a bit more background to this explaining how their development different. And there were a few places towards the end where the narrative seemed a bit inconsistent about how the nanobots worked - for example, where a protagonist is not allowed to exit his transport pod because he could become instantly infected by the nanobots which are blowing around microscopically ... yet by the very description of the nanobots, if they even touched the pod it would be infected, so it's completely pointless to have shut him inside the pod.

Small inconsistencies like that aside, it was a fun thriller, and not a cliffhanger ending although also clearly with room left for a sequel as there were a few questions unanswered.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

An unexpected gem

As it is a first novel there’s always a roll of the dice. This was a big win. Loved it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Buckle Up For Some Slice Of Life Drama

I have a very strong distaste for the introduction of day to day family strife into any type of thriller. If I feel like empathizing with someone's real-world family or marital issues I'll watch About Us or The Notebook. I'm kidding, I won't watch either of those unless my wife asks me too. #happywifehappylife Therefore, the introduction of the family drama theme into this book, layered on top of the presentation of one of the main protagonists, allegedly a cutting-edge scientist, as a near hysterical, emotionally imbalanced, spaz ball, completely turned me off. It distracted so much from the main story that I actually couldn't finish listening to it. Too bad, because the rest was very interesting and entertaining.

13 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Not quite sci-fi, more drama-thriller. Audio has some issues.

This book has all the elements of a good tech-thriller and the basic premise is interesting. It's definitely not hard sci-fi so you have to be ok with some unrealistic situations but that didn't bother me.

The first half delivers on most of what's promised but it quickly gets predictable. There's actually some left turns in the last act that felt a bit forced just for the sake of drama.

Considerable time is spent on character's relationships statuses, most of them are uninteresting and depressing. When not bogged down by that, the action scenes are good, I wish there had been more of them.

There are two audio issues to be aware of. One is that the narrator emphasizes his "s" and "sh" sounds more than any narrator I've ever heard. That whistling sound gets really irritating after a while and listening to this book on small speakers is almost a deal breaker. The audio engineer should have tried to cut that hiss sound a bit.

The second issue is that even thought the narrator has a wide variety of voices and performs them very well, he sometimes yells and sometimes whispers. The performance is better for it, but the audio engineers didn't modulate the changes in volume level, so there are times when you either can't hear clearly or you jump to turn the volume down.

If you like techno thrillers and don't expect hard science and don't mind some extended character drama exploration you might enjoy it. Just be aware of the audio issues.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Well spoken good story

By and large an enjoyable story but I felt the lead female character was written generically and too stereotypical.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Uri
  • 2019-08-01

Eye opening for possible Doom and Gloom scenarios

The ideas in this book do not seem that fictional. The books stretches your imagination to understand how AI might conquer humanity, soon and scary! Too many technical details necessary to build up the story.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Disjointed... Interesting but a bit over the too

It was ok. It used that same old trope of "USA vs the middle East" as it's starting point and the main female character was a stereotypical overly emotional female struggling to keep her head in a crisis. Overall, just meh.

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    5 out of 5 stars

All hail our digital overlords

Level 5 refers to a near future where the pinnacle of artificial intelligence is referred to as a Level 5 AI. The science fiction part is very good. The extrapolation of current mobile technology and nano-technology is very plausible. The jump in AI sentience and gravity manipulation is much less plausible but not so much it detracts from the story in any way.

The narrator does a very good performance and has identifiable voices for each character.

I guess the main thing I liked about the story is it wasn't a story of AI's destroying or saving mankind but involved people and relied on them being stupid, brilliant, altruistic, petty, greedy, paranoid, you know, people. Some of the characters are a little too saintly (Victor's wife) but the saintly ones have very very very small parts.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

I never write reviews but....

I really enjoyed everything about this book. In some ways reminder me of getting lost in Michael Crichton novel.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Too much relationship conflict

This guy must have a rotten family life. He seems to think no relationships are permanent.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Martin L. Shoemaker
  • Hopkins, MI USA
  • 2018-07-22

Techno thriller? Or hard science fiction? Either way, it’s excellent!

Opinions vary on technothrillers. Science fiction readers think of them as a subgenre of hard science fiction. Marketing departments disagree, treating them as a genre of their own.

But however you see them, William Ledbetter is a master. Level Five has high tech adventure worthy of Clancy or Crichton, and a vision worthy of Heinlein — but with gritty, modern world-building. This book is amazing!

The story weaves together different lines with different points of view, both human and AI. I was constantly impressed with the narrator’s ability to give each character (and their sections) a unique, recognizable voice. (Though if I have a complaint, it’s that the voice of the little girl Abby was jarring.)

Some parts of the story I could anticipate. Others kept me guessing. And the ending is audacious. I give this book my highest recommendation.

107 of 116 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • fantasyreader
  • 2018-08-12

A well-written and smart book, well narrated

A science fiction thriller with multiple plot lines that culminate in a well-orchestrated climax. I'm not primarily a science fiction reader, but the pacing and story carried me right through this well-written and smart book. The narrator is terrific at crafting distinct characters for all the point of view voices and really brings the story to life.

44 of 48 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Tony
  • Hot Springs, AR, United States
  • 2018-07-20

A firm 4 stars.

Overall this is a satisfying audiobook if you're into artificial intelligence. I liked the AI characters the most, but I feel the narrator did a great job bringing them all to life. A few parts of the story felt a little unnecessary and 11 hours is a tad short but I'd definitely buy more from this author.

66 of 74 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Daniel C. Upton
  • 2019-01-20

The Rise of AI Machines

This is a fanciful, yet believable enough, tale of the events leading close to Armaggedon, brought on by near-future nano-tech, AI's and of course, alternately needy, greedy, bad, lazy, paranoid, brilliant, heroic, good people. The near future USA setting is convincing enough to be unnerving. The characters are fairly interesting and nicely flawed.

With AI tech beginning to accelerate as you read this review, a question to consider is this: How soon might nano-tech advance to this story's level? Just how advanced will AI be in, say, 50 years? Here, the Level 5 AI's - - the first to, it seems, be more intelligent in many ways than humans.

Open question: If we have so much difficulty governing ourselves now (remember when we used to think that the USA could overcome most any challenge?) ...how likely is it that we will prepare ourselves for the perils of the tech of the near future?

If any of this is intriguing to you, then this audiobook is absolutely worth your time. I recommend it!

Lastly, the conclusion -- dramatic and a bit unexpected, leaves room for a sequel.

32 of 36 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • P Morris
  • 2018-09-24

Great Sci-Fi!

As someone who works in this field, I’ve been frustrated by the lack of good AI sci-fi, but this novel does a terrific job of describing a world where our reliance on tech and desire to anthropomorphize our digital assistants has become second nature. When the digital assistants themselves become ‘aware and available’, the conflict and trust (or lack of it) that has been bubbling below the surface rises to the top. Great book and excellent narration!

42 of 49 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Justin
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 2019-02-28

An interesting exploration of our potential future

I think about the future, sometimes I get paid to do it. I very much enjoy stories like this that look at what life could be like. This story exposes the fear that we have for AIs to achieve general intelligence, but also a tempered optimism about the opportunity to coexist with them. I think the author did a great job of delving into our lives enhanced with technology (including approaching a singularity like moment) and the threats inherent in that. The narration was great, there were very distinct voices that made each character instantly discernible. Worth a listen.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Rich
  • 2019-03-16

Engaging story

Interesting near future sci-fi mystery. Kept me engaged. I Recommend this especially after a spate of highly rated but very bad books.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-03-06

this made me late for work

this book kept me up multiple nights waiting to get to the next chapter the narrator was by far attention-grabbing 10 out of 10 would recommend to anyone

22 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 2019-01-24

Evil Nanobots and AI, oh my!

Starts rather weakly but ends pretty strong.
Through the first 50% I did not think I would want to read any follow-ons, but by the end I, grudgingly, would.
The writing is ok, but far from the best, and the nano-tech story is weak (and sometimes very weak), but the AI subplot became interesting enough to be worth the read. The characters were weak and some of the plot elements were unbelievable ...but I ended up wanting to know what happens next with the AI.

The narration is good, without being outstanding.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Andrea
  • 2019-07-31

Excellent Performance! Thought Provoking

It takes concentration to grasp all the characters presented at the start of the book. I had to backtrack a number of times to get fully engaged. Once I got the main characters I got fully captivated by the story and had to listen pretty much non-stop. The performance was outstanding except for the little girl, Abbey's voice (which was a bit annoying). Overall, I loved that the book seemed contemporary while implementing a futurist's educated view of technologies. I thought the story was gripping and went right along with Isamoff's "Singularity" prediction.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful