The book was a critical success. Walter Clemons declared that it "will become a classic in the literature of survival."[2]

D. Keith Mano, of The New York Times Book Review gave the book a "rave" review, stating that "Read's style is savage: unliterary, undecorated as a prosecutor's brief." He also described the book as an important one:

Cowardice, selfishness, whatever: their essential heroism can weather Read's objectivity. He has made them human. 'Alive' is thunderous entertainment: I know the events by rote, nonetheless I found it electric. And important. 'Alive' should be read by sociologists, educators, the Joint Chief of Staff. By anyone, in fact, whose business it is to prepare men for adversity.[3]

Michael A. Rogers concurs, stating that "Read has risen above the sensational and managed a book of real and lasting value."[4]

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