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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I'll try to find something new to say...
After reading all these reviews, I have to admit that I'm pleasantly surprised! I had no idea that "Armor" was such a cult novel with such a huge following.
It's revealing how many veterans gave the book positive reviews. It seems to confirm something that I've felt for a long time: Steakley himself may be a veteran, and this book was a way for him to put...
Published on 9 Dec. 1997

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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Action, Heroes, and ?
The field of military science fiction is a very limited one, with only a very few excellent examples, mainly Heinlein's Starship Troopers, Haldeman's Forever War, and Dickson's Soldier, Ask Not. Armor attempts to meld some of the great characteristics of these works, from Heinlein's powered armor to Haldeman's anti-war message, but it is only partially successful...
Published on 19 Dec. 2002 by Patrick Shepherd


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Action, Heroes, and ?, 19 Dec. 2002
By 
Patrick Shepherd "hyperpat" (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
The field of military science fiction is a very limited one, with only a very few excellent examples, mainly Heinlein's Starship Troopers, Haldeman's Forever War, and Dickson's Soldier, Ask Not. Armor attempts to meld some of the great characteristics of these works, from Heinlein's powered armor to Haldeman's anti-war message, but it is only partially successful.
The first section of this book deals with Felix, a new recruit on his first battle drop. We are not given any background to this man, but is rather a blank slate that we watch as he and his powered armor scout suit turn into an impossibly efficient killing machine, becoming the sole survivor of his battle group after being faced with an opposition of literally thousands of human-sized Ants. We see a man of action and few words, whose interior mental state is oddly split between the fighting, survive at all costs, totally unemotional 'Engine' and a terrified, confused, and very fatalistic 'other'. When the 'Engine' is not in command, we see Felix have some interaction with other soldiers on the drop, from finding out what the survival percentage is for scouts on their first, second, etc major drop from some experienced veterans, to who their military idol is, a man named Kent, supposedly impossible to defeat in hand-to-hand suit combat, and a quickly burgeoning love interest in a extremely capable scout from another battle group. This is the best section of the book, as we see by their actions what molds a military group together, what values soldiers must have if they are to survive as a group, how emotions become a riotous tangle under the demands of battle.
Abruptly, the book leaves Felix and picks up a new character, Jack Crow, cynical, worldly, known for impossible (and marginally illegal) exploits, fighting his way out of a prison and onto a mutineer space ship run by master pirate Borglyn. When Borglyn presents a plan to refuel his ship at a Fleet science base on the planet Sanctity, owned by the eccentric alcoholic Lewis, and offers as prize to Crow a beautiful little ship and a de-activated scout suit for defeating the science base defenses from the inside, all the pieces are in place. From this point on (about page 130) I found the book to be totally predictable, from just who Felix and Lewis really are, to what actions each character would take leading to the final battle.
The characterization of Crow is not very well done, as we are only given hints of his past, a rather murky inside look at his emotional triggers and defenses, and a constant mannerism of lighting a cigarette at every available opportunity, mention of which I found quite irritating after the thirteenth repetition. Unlike Felix, whose past must remain a blank for several reasons, Crow's past should have had far greater explication to make us really believe in him as a person, to where his final actions would be more believable and not just a predictable stereotype. Roger Zelazny was known for building characters like Crow in works like This Immortal, but Zelazny's were believable, three dimensional people. Crow is not. This is unfortunate, as the characters of Crow, Felix, Kent, and Holly (the scientist in charge of the Sanctity base, and also very much a stereotype) form a group of different looks at just what it is that makes a hero, which is really Steakley's theme.
As a theme, it is distinct from the earlier cited works, and could have made this work into something excellent. But it is marred by several additional factors:
1. The shown high level military strategy/personnel are absurd. Any military consistently run in this fashion would quickly lose all respect by the lower level soldiers. The 'grunts' are famous for always bitching about just how screwed up the 'brass' are, but if they truly believed that, you would see Russia in 1917 all over again.
2. The Ants are equally impossible, seeming to have only one strategy, overwhelm through sheer mindless force of numbers, though they are supposedly a technologically advanced, star travelling culture. This attribute could have been worked into a strong sub-theme, but it wasn't.
3. The human society outside of the military is never really shown, nor is there really any reason given for the Ant War itself.
Thus the hero theme is forced to exist in an almost total vacuum from the normal societal factors that help define just what a hero is. And without strong character definition, it just didn't carry the emotional freighting that would have made this an excellent work.
Read this one for the opening highly action oriented first section, which is excellent. Then close the book.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I'll try to find something new to say..., 9 Dec. 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
After reading all these reviews, I have to admit that I'm pleasantly surprised! I had no idea that "Armor" was such a cult novel with such a huge following.
It's revealing how many veterans gave the book positive reviews. It seems to confirm something that I've felt for a long time: Steakley himself may be a veteran, and this book was a way for him to put his experiences of war (whichever one it was) down on paper. Why sci-fi? Why not?
I have to agree with those who say that the book slows down during the Jack Crow sections. It's sad but true. At least J.C. seems to undergo some sort of character development (more than one could say for many SF novels) but the dialogue especially was only so-so. I would have to say, nonetheless, that the scenes with Felix more than make up for those sections.
Comparing "Armor" with "Starship Troopers" does neither book justice. Heinlein seems more concerned with the military mind than he is with the actual experience of combat. We are never told what Earth society is like in "Armor," or at least it's only broadly described. "Troopers" was about why we need a military (and, IMHO, is much more ambiguous concerning warfare than some unsophisticated readers would think); "Armor" is about the deleterious effects of warfare on the mind and spirit. (Except for the JAck Crow stuff.)
This book was recommended to me by a friend, and I would recommend it in turn, not as a great work of literature, or even great SF on the level of Poe, Wells, Clarke, Heinlein's best, Dick, Zelazny, Lem, etc. But it is a powerful book, with a lot to say, if we're willing to listen.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've ever read!Do yourself a favor and buy it!, 21 Mar. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
I've spent the past 30 minutes reading all 159 reviews and decided to write one out too.Armor is,quite simply, the most in-depth and thought provoking book that I've ever read(and that is not just sci-fi either.)I admit that the transition from Felix to Crow is confusing at first because there is no warning but it isn't really a big deal.Also, the charecters aren't rally given a back story and you do not find out the reason everyones where they are until the middle of the book. I'm 15 and bought this book when I was 11.Since then I've read it 8 times and am enthralled by it every single time. I always discover or figure something out that I missed. Also, to all the reviewers that said that Jack had no personality, think about the personal battles that he faces betraying his friends and the fact that he actually hates Felix because he is better than him.I love how everything ties toghether at the end but I must admit that the ending was depressing and open.In fact, the whole book was depressing in the fact that Felix's non-stop missions were the cause of a mishap and also the fact that Felix could have had a MUCH better life but he cuts all ties and joins the military. PLEASE, the book is very cheap and worth every penny.Buy it! P.S:Sorry this review is thrown toghether as I was just adressing the points brought up in other reviews.Also, to any fans please email Mr. Steakly and request a sequel since his adress is above.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Inconceivably Brilliant:The greatest work of fiction to date, 8 April 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
There are people who complain about Armor being a cheap rip-off of Heinlein's Starship Troopers. They are partially correct. Steakley himself has admitted that he stole Troopers outright and has commented that if Heinlein could write action, a quality which he regrettably lacked as a writer, Armor never would have been written.
But this is incorrect and here is why: Whereas Troopers shows how political intrigue and maneuvering can affect a war and the warrior participating in it, Armor shows how the brutal combat of close-up futuristic warfare with Aliens we can know nothing about affects a warrior experiencing it.
The third book of power armor, Haldeman's The Forever War, shows a third aspect: how society views a war and the changing veiws of that society as time passes, governments change and social norms slowly develop new trends and how this affects a warrior fighting in that war.
Bashing Armor for its lack of an aspect is not a reasonable thing to do. If Steakley wished to include the sociological and political aspects of the book, he would have, but that would have detracted from the book's focus: the people involved and nothing else. Not on the technology, not on the society, not on the politics. On the people. Two of them: Felix and Jack Crow. The back even reads, "...and how the strength of spirit can be the greatest armor of all."
This novel is about two viewpoints: How war affects a warrior participating in it and How war affects a civilian aware of it.
Bashing a novel is completely unacceptable in my eyes because by insulting a novel, it implies that one feels they could have written it better. Well, if that is the case, go ahead and write it better. If you can do it, kudos for you. If not, quit your whining and don't read it if you don't like it.
The Gunman
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic! A must read for military SF fans!, 24 Dec. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
ARMOR is destined to be on the same vaunted pedestal as Heinlein's Starship Troopers. The military action is some of the best I've ever read. Viscerally stunning. I was completely immersed in the experience. Steakley did a masterful job of portraying the survival mechanism of the mind in battle with his Felix/Engine character. Not only on an intellectual level but also on an intuitive level, I was able to feel and understand Felix's fear and anger which led him to create in his mind the ruthless killing machine, the Engine. For anyone who's ever experienced battle, Steakley's Felix/Engine will ring true. I have a few minor criticisms though. What was the whole purpose of the Antwar and specifically the military objectives of attacking Banshee? Steakley hinted that the Ants attacked Earth, and started the interstellar war, but didn't mention why and what happened (Was Earth destroyed?) This should have been fleshed out more. As a former enlisted veteran, I also had a problem with the portrayal of all the military officers as basically idiots. It's just not very realistic. The whole Archon/Guardian thing also needed to be fleshed out more. Overall though, this book was a great read. Anyone who is a fan of Starship Troopers, or of Orson Scott Card's Enders Game will love ARMOR. Most highly recommended. Finally, I hope Mr. Steakley will continue with this universe he created. He has the perfect vehicle for a whole series of books set in this future. I can very easily see several sequels with or without the Felix character during the Antwar. A prequel would be great too. Are you listening Mr. Steakley? For all us military SF fans, I hope so!
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5.0 out of 5 stars To hell with Starship troopers, 16 Feb. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
I am sending this message in hopes that it reaches John Steakley. First of all, how can this be a rip off of Starship Troopers when the dates say that it was out first?? I read Armor a few months ago at the demand of a few friends. It was a marvelous piece of work. Character captivates my attention more than anything else in a novel. I was glad that the thechnical nonsense was kept to a minimum and not thrown at the reader in batallions. The story was interesting, but not the heart of what was being written, or at least not the part that grabbed my attention and earned my admiration. Felix and Jack are simply two of the most captivating characters that i have come accross. I have a great affection for tragic heroes that just keep on comming, but never let it get to their head. Who gives a damn about a Grecian Jock named Hercules? It is the characters who never loose sight of their own mortality that are more interesting, even if their actions are suitable for a god. The writing surrounding Felix was in perfect sinc with his character. "Felix would not die." what better quote would sum up his character, even in his own eyes. Many critics have disagreed witht he choice to split the storyline, but i feel that it was effective and really the only way to Jack and Felix into the same story. My only criticisim lies in a suspiscion that segments in the end of the novel felt as though they were rushed, but it all still came together marvelously. One last note, I love the characters too much to want to read of them in a sequel. Some stories are meant to end, some characterrs are best left being as grand as Jack and Felix were in armor. Dont ruin the perfection with a sequel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars All I Want for Christmas is _Armor_ Back in Print!, 22 Dec. 1996
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
Like some of the other reviewers below, I learned of this sadly-obscure book through word of mouth, and then spent a couple of years haunting used book stores to find it. Looking at the DAW Books publication date above (March 1997), it appears that after a decade of being out of print, this book is about to be available once again! I am now nearly finished reading _Armor_, and find myself being blown away by its power. This book is an equal to the greatest thinking-man's military science fiction ever written -- up there with Heinlein's _Starship Troopers_ (with which it shares some superficial similarities) and Haldeman's _The Forever War_. So why the long time out of print? Could it be the awful cover? The paperback-only availability? Or perhaps that, as far as I know, Steakley has only written two books in his life: the far future space war book (but oh, so much more!) _Armor_ in 1984, and then in 1990 the odd-sounding book _Vampire$_, apparently a modern-day detective/bounty hunter about someone who hunts vampires for a living. Odd, too, that both books use the same names for their main characters! I have heard similar word-of-mouth rave reviews of this book as well. (_Vampire$_ is on my shelf for next book to read, and it will be the first "vampire" book I will ever have read, or that I ever intend to read.) Mr. Steakley, whoever you are, and whatever you are doing other than writing, stop it right now, and publish more!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best military science fiction book ever!, 8 Aug. 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
This book is incredible. I have never felt more like I was there. However, this book holds a special place in my heart, as I first read it when I had been in the Army for a year. It was very frustrating, because this is everything that I wanted the Army to be. The most wonderful aspect about it is just how he does such an incredible job of incorporating the military BS into his world, and he did it with such irritatingly perfect ability, much better that Heinlein ever could. All of that paper work and politics that he puts in the book is really in the military. Reading this book made me realize that the Army is NO LIFE!! For all of you who skipped Jack Crow, I have to say, Jack Crow is not as interesting as Felix, but it still is. Yes, it is a serious change of pace after the ant war, but if you just read it and read it quickly, without getting too involved, you will probably be really surprised. One final thing I would like to say is that the military has even acknowledged this book. In my old military clothing and sales store they sold books, and they were all non-fiction books about Schwarzfopf, the Vietnam War, the famous generals and leaders, and service manuals, but on the very bottom of this shelf, it sat there beckoning to all those in the service. Having been in and seen the madness, I find that to be a pretty powerful statement. This book is a life changer, read it! P.S. I liked the old cover better!!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Armor -- not a hambone in the whole story., 10 Sept. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
This is a fairly good read. The only reason why I didn't give it five stars was because it had too much filler about some space pirate's interactions with boring people and on a boring planet, leaving no room for a satisfying ending. Also some of the paragraphs were nearly unintelligible, as the author tried, unsuccessfully I might add, to show off how much he can write slick stream-of-consciousness prose. (More like stream of incoherent unconsciousness.) And I think every reader out there wanted to know the fate of the Machine guy. Did he survive the blast; anf, if so, did he turn into an emotionless combat commando? If the author is trying to interest us in a sequel, this cheap-ass ending is NOT the way to do it. The author would find it worth his while to read William C. Dietz's McCade series, so he can learn how to make a really satisfying ending, yet leave ample room to begin a wham-o sequel. Hell, even the Harlequin's men's adventure series, like The Destroyer, Deathlands and Outlanders series, have much better more solid endings than Armor's ending!
The author needs to do more homework on his story -- but it shouldn't be that difficult a task, given that most of the story is in excellent form. Or perhaps the author needs a new agent/editor, because what ever guidance he had on this, in terms of cutting out stuff and adding other stuff, was not made by someone that intelligent.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "You are what you do when it counts", 10 May 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
This book has been a favorite of mine since it first came out. It is one of only three books that I own that I have read three times the other two being "Fevre Dream" by George RR Martin and "Musashi" by Eiji Yoshikawa. Each time it remains just as powerful. The Characters are second only to those in Dan Simmons "Hyperion" for their ability to draw you in and make you care what happens to them. This novel blew me away when I read it . All my friends love it and we all wonder " When is there going to be more from this peerless author ? " and " How can anyone be this good on his first novel ?" Is it possible he is some other established author using an assumed name ? We think not.This book, although it shares it's genre with other outstanding books, most notably Hienlien's "Starship Troopers", is still too much it's own style to attribute to any other author. Those wishing to read more character driven books in this genre are urged to check out the "Dorsai" books and most especially Mr. Yoshikawa's incomparable "Musashi". I know it's historical fiction but it reads almost like a super hero book . And it's based on fact. Hows that for realism?
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Armor by John Steakley (Mass Market Paperback - 4 Mar. 2010)
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