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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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22 of 23 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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22 of 23 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A heart-pounding beginning, and then.... disappointment., 6 May 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
I can see why some people gave this book a "10", since it starts out terrifically. But, then it
founders badly and I can't rate this book overall much higher than a "4", since I don't think I
would buy it again.

The book is divided into five parts of different length and quality. The first part is a dark and
thrilling action adventure, centered on the armored scout named Felix. It is reminiscent of the
movie "Aliens", with the same violent kinetic energy and the terror of fighting against an
implacable horde of giant alien monsters. The pace of the action mixed with the battlefield
pathos and just the hint of humanization of its characters is a powerful combination and sweeps
you along, making you forget to stop and ask that one simple nagging question (as in the movie
"Aliens"): "why not just NUKE 'em all from orbit!!??"

Unfortunately, the book doesn't continue along the same path, and in the second and third
parts, the author switches gears into the first person narrative (as a different character), and tries
to get into more characterization, more chatty conversation, more human relationships, and
other Writing 101 stuff like that, which he just doesn't seem to have a good grip on because he
sure lost me there. He should have just stuck to what he was good at, which is writing about
action adventure and the pure terror of battle on an alien planet.

So I skipped over to the fourth section, which returns to the tale of Felix. This part was
decent, but got schmaltzy with the arrival of the Masao, and the partial explanation of Felix' past,
which all had a false and tired ring to it. Maybe I've just read too many sci-fi and fantasy stories
in which the central hero or anti-hero turns out in the end to be a prince or king or some other
kind of Superior Being all along. Deja vu all over again.

The fifth and last section returns to the first person narrative and has a definite deux ex-
machina, pasted together quality, as if the author ran out of ideas on to how to get everything to
end while still keeping his first person narrator alive.

Too bad. This book had potential.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very unsatisfying read, 4 May 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
Having read a lot of good reviews about this book, it came as quite a surprise that Armor was quite...boring. After reading the first bit about Felix, I could've sworn I had picked up "Starship Troopers" by mistake. Nope, a re-check of the cover assured me that this was not the case. There is nothing new here that Henlein didn't do better decades earlier. I mean, Power Armour AND giant bugs again? Bouncing around dropping blast bombs? I've read this all before. But just when I'd accepted this as a Troopers rip, we go into an unbelievably long middle section about Jack Crow. This part seemed like it was from a different book and I completely lost interest at this point. It was quite slow, all over the place and had no real point. I finshed this book two days ago and in retrospect I can't really say much about it other than it was ALMOST a complete waste of time. I say almost because I found the Felix character to be somewhat interesting in the way his "Engine" works and protects him both emotinally and physically. Other than that, I really can't reccommend this one, I'm afraid.
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant idea, poorly executed, 16 Jun 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
At first glance, this novel appears to be about a human "imprisoned" (and yet saved) by his invincible armor. But that is veneer. Really, this book is a diatribe against the stereotypical, mindless, bureaucratic institutions we all have dealt with at one time or another. And it's the story of a pathetic hero who is totally helpless against his institution, the "army." Put him in armor and surround him with Ants, and he's brilliant. Put him back in the barracks, and he's a spineless victim, whining his way to oblivion. By the end of the book, the author absolutely beats these themes to death -- to a PULP! "Bureaucracies are stupid and evil! And the people who serve them are helpless victims who are powerless to change their fate!"
Yeah-sure. I felt like the author spent more time ranting on his soap box than he did telling what could have been a really great story. No thanks.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The author just didn't understand Starship Troopers., 12 Nov 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
The flaws in this book are incredible. In this military, soldiers don't rebel at repeated hopeless missions, (5 survivals makes a trusted hand, 10 a grizzled vetran, and 20 not believed). The officers seem to have no grasp that combat involves killing (possibly of themselves).
This military doesn't seem to have any bombs, though a powered armor suit can be made to malfunction and explode like a baby nuke. Too bad that only suits with living occupants seem to have this ability, especially with all the dead troopers laying around at this point in the book.
Running out of ammo is common, but nobody ever thinks to take swords, knives, or even a nightstick.
The author should have read Starship Troopers a little more closely before writing this book. There was more to Heinlein's book than powered armor.
I would have given this book zero stars, but it wasn't an option.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I forced myself to the last page, 26 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
I must admit that I was fooled by all the great reviews on this story when I purchased this book. I found it to be a fraud on Heinlein's ST, overall. I especially disliked the whole Jack Crow tangent. It's funny, when I hit the beginning of the JC bit, I thought the Felix story was over and a new one was beginning. This book should not be placed on the same plane as Starship Troopers or Ender's Game because 1. it did not break new ground nor install a twist on an old story, 2. the dual storyline wasn't convincingly cohesive in the end because it was so predictable and 3. characters were not developed enough for the reader to **identify** with the protagonists.
Steakly, I say to you, as a TV book, it is ok; as a piece of science fiction literature, it is not. Come up with your own ideas in your next book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The first 89 pages are great, stop reading after then., 9 May 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
A lot of people reviewed this book with a comparison to Starship Troopers. I wonder if these folk read on to page 90-412 where the story bogs down into a morass of unremarkable, uninteresting writing. I found myself skipping several pages only to pick up the story without difficulty later on. It's almost as if this started as a short story then was expanded to a book at some publisher's request. This book seems to have only a quick flash of greatness that quickly disappears into predictable, stick with great books like the Forever War, Starship Troopers and the Hammer's Slammer's early series, they're great books that I read over and over. Get this one from your local library, read the first 89 pages then the last 2 chapters, that'll give you the best reading experience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A half way good book, 1 July 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Armor (Mass Market Paperback)
In reading all the other reviews that rave about this book, I'm struck by how many people focus on the "Felix section". I wonder if people stopped reading when the Jack Crow story started up.
The Felix storyline is quite good. The Jack Crow storyline is dull, uninteresting and trite. It strikes me a purely filler to make the book take up more pages. If this book had been edited down to about half it size and exclusively focussed on Felix as a protagonist, it would have been great. The addition of Jack Crow to the book makes it bog down and a bit agonizing to read.
Don't be fooled by the glowing reviews, they only cover a third of the book.
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