Level Five

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Pub Date Aug 01 2022 | Archive Date Oct 31 2022

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The Bestselling Audiobook, Now Available in Print and EBook formats!

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.

About the Author

William Ledbetter is a Nebula Award winning author with two novels and more than seventy speculative fiction short stories and non-fiction articles published in five languages, in markets such as Asimov's, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog, Escape Pod and the SFWA blog. He's been a space and technology geek since childhood and spent most of his non-writing career in the aerospace and defense industry. He is a member of SFWA, the National Space Society of North Texas, and a Launch Pad Astronomy workshop graduate. He lives near Dallas with his wife, a needy dog and three spoiled cats.

The Bestselling Audiobook, Now Available in Print and EBook formats!

In the mountains of Pakistan, a high-tech mission aimed at preventing another nuke on US soil goes off the rails - with deadly...

Advance Praise

"The cold facts of the story, the sides being drawn, the urgency as time draws near, add to the tension. The results may surprise you. It’s intense, complex, and engaging. It’s a book that hooks you—you must see where it cleverly leads." –Mystery Suspense Review Crew

"This book is filled to the brim with unique characters like artificial intelligences, programmers, engineers, special agents, terrorists, and a man who sees visions of god. It is no surprise that all of them have their own idea of whom should inherit the Earth.... Ledbetter introduces these technologies and gives us a glimpse into how they might affect our lives. He adds a refreshing element to the story, potentially dangerous innovations used for good, and an optimism about humanity’s place in space." —P.A. Kramer

An excellent but surprisingly dark near-future SF

This near-future science fiction thriller liberally mixes a number of well-trodden threats in the genre; from nuclear and biological terrorism, to unchecked artificial intelligences pursuing their agendas, to weaponizing nanotechnology. And yet, Ledbetter takes on a role of an experienced DJ, remixing these familiar things in fascinating new ways, adding in a cast of fascinating characters and experimenting with interesting technologies that manage to feel both wondrous and entirely plausible within our lifetime.

Writers who are bullish on near-future technologies in ways Ledbetter appears to be earlier in the book tend to be optimists who can't help but allow their plucky technocrat protagonists to save the day in the end. Without giving away any of the plot I must say that Ledbetter does not shy away from darker sub-plots and that even the most charismatic of his characters are no more safe from the twists and turns of the plot than the Starks in George R. R. Martin novels.

This is a strong debut novel from an already-accomplished short fiction writer, and I look forward to reading or listening to whatever book he comes up with next.

—Alex Shvartsman

"The cold facts of the story, the sides being drawn, the urgency as time draws near, add to the tension. The results may surprise you. It’s intense, complex, and engaging. It’s a book that hooks...

Available Editions

ISBN 9781953736116
PRICE $12.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 21 members

Featured Reviews

Very good story about AI, it really make us think about technology and the use humans do to it... We're the monsters and also the frightened children, I really enjoyed this book, at first what confused me a bit, was so many different characters and I mean, even the AI, all the different AI, have different points of view and personalities, so many different stories and how they connected one with the other, but like many things they all came together and eventually made sense, and like real life its not all dreams and unicorns so brace yourselves for quite a ride.

I highly recommend this book and to tell the truth, this is one of the books that I am really interested in following the story, I want to know how this story ends and what happened to the characters that were left kind in a loop, and if you want to know more I would suggest to you, to grab yourself a copy and start reading, its worth your time.

Thank you NetGalley for this free ARC and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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I really liked this book it was so thought-provoking. The writing was great and the story had me gripped right from the start, I also really liked the character developement. A great read.

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Level Five

[Blurb goes here]

I have to say it: this is probably one of the best books I've read in a while. Great writing? You got it. Great story? It's there. Great characters? All of them. I had a lot of fun reading it. I'm not a fan of the ending, I was expecting more. Maybe the author is planning a sequel?

In my opinion, characters and AI were well developed and grow a bit as you read on. The adventure takes you all over the world. No, the author doesn't dwell too much on the science. It's just there, and it works. I like hard core sci fi, a lot. So that might be the only downside. No matter, this is one writer that I'll be following from now on.

Thank you for the free copy!

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William Ledbetter evokes future technology in a way that feels highly realistic-- it all stems from our world, a logical extension of where science and technology are taking us. He shows us its benefits as well as its dark side- a compelling plot and great characters complete the picture ably.

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Level Five is a cleverly written near-future thriller story. It has all the ingredients to hook us to what's happening and the author clearly knows how to use them.

First of all, I want to make it clear that I read the written version of this story. Since it's not on the author's page, I'm writing it here instead, which means I don't have any opinion about the audio performance.

The story starts with several POVs of different characters, but in a few chapters, the author makes it clear that they're all somehow interconnected. That is interesting because we are able to see one character from other perspectives and, in that way, understand their motivations better.

I would also love to highlight Mortimer's motives and his dicotomy with Samson's. It was refreshing to see a different take on AIs than the one that usually plagues sci-fi stories. They felt well-developed and are no different from their human counterparts, just like any Level Five shouldn't be. They would truly pass Turing's Test.

One of the things I didn't enjoy as much was the ending that felt a bit short for me. I wouldn't have minded spending a bit more time in the aftermath of the story. However, the way is ended and the fact that there is a sequel, make up for it. Can't wait to read Level Six.

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Absolutely riveting! The first couple of chapters put a number of story threads into play. These quickly became comfortably intertwined, and by the last half of the book, I just couldn't stop reading. I enjoyed fundamental aspects such as a slightly more advanced version of ubiquitous computing than we have today, along with really cool technologies such as anti-gravity travel, nano-bots, and level-five (better than human?) artificial intelligence. The author then took this background and made an absolutely enthralling near future techno-spy-thriller that also included NEO space travel, philanthropic high tech startups, and old fashioned boardroom battles for control of previously leading edge tech startups. Then things start to get seriously risky and the novel becomes totally red hot. While writing one of the most entertaining novels I've read this year, the author also set the stage for a fantastic sequel. I can't wait to read more by William Ledbetter. Pardon me, I need to cut this short so that I can make a run to my local library...

I offer my sincere appreciation to the author, William Ledbetter, and the publisher, Interstellar Flight Press, for sharing this excellent novel with me.

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I am not exactly sure how to write a summary on this novel without spoiling it, so I'll just go directly to what I thought.

I actually really loved it. I didn't know what to expect, but I really wanted a thrilling science-fiction and it did not disappoint. Although I have to say it was a little bit more of a ''thriller'' in my opinion, it is still a wonderful read. The book is so well written, it feels like you're watching a movie until the last page. There's definitely an interesting examination of technology and human's work through this book.

I will definitely be reading more from William Ledbetter.

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This book was very interesting. I always enjoy a good book about AI. I did struggle through just a bit in some parts that didn't hold my interest, but overall it was a good book!

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