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Armor by John Steakley
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Armor (edition 1984)

by John Steakley

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1,111307,443 (3.87)31
Member:knownever
Title:Armor
Authors:John Steakley
Info:DAW (1984), Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
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Armor by John Steakley

  1. 30
    Old Man's War by John Scalzi (goodiegoodie)
  2. 20
    The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (RASinfo)
    RASinfo: Perfect read for the story and ideas of the same theme.
  3. 10
    Redliners by David Drake (one-horse.library)
  4. 00
    Death's Head by David Gunn (crazybatcow)
    crazybatcow: Both are military sci-fi with mature themes and a protagonist you might not like but who kicks butt anyway.
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4.5 stars, audio version
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

"...everything you were hiding from was in there with you. That's the trouble with armor. It won't protect you from what you are."

Felix is a loner, a broken man with a mysterious past. When he's dropped with thousands of fellow soldiers on a toxic planet nicknamed "Banshee," he's the only survivor of the battle with the 8-foot tall "Ants" that live there. That's partly because of the special armor he wears -- his black nuclear-powered scout suit -- and partly because of the emotional armor he wears -- what he calls "The Engine" -- his lack of fear and compassion in dangerous situations. Because he doesn't really care if he dies, he is able to make quick detached decisions, and it's this armor, ironically, that keeps him alive.

After the battle, the computer assumes Felix is dead, and this glitch means that he's never assigned to R&R. Instead, he keeps getting dropped into the hordes of Ants on Banshee, and he continues to survive while everyone else dies. Prone to be solitary anyway, the fact that nobody around him lasts long means that Felix becomes more experienced than his leaders (though few people realize this), that he doesn't form any human bonds, and that his situation progressively gets more lonely, desperate, and tragic.

Felix is so emotionless and inaccessible, his environment is so bleak, and his situation is so grim, that I nearly quit reading Armor. It was just painful and hopeless. Then suddenly we leave Felix, jump several years into the future, and join up with Jack Crow, a notorious criminal who has escaped from prison and partnered with a space pirate. The two of them plan to infiltrate a research lab on a frontier planet. Jack is fascinated by a black scout suit he finds and he carries it to the research lab as a gift to Hollis, the scientist who runs the lab. Also intrigued, Hollis manages to hook into it so that they can relive Felix's experiences in the Antwar.

And they are horrified -- devastated by Felix's physical pain and mental suffering. But most of all, they're awed at his strength and his ability to go on in the face of such complete devastation and hopelessness, especially when they find out how Felix got his "armor" -- how he became this emotionless killing machine. Felix refuses to die and it affects them profoundly.

It affected me profoundly, too. After nearly quitting Armor because of its lack of emotion, I was surprised to eventually find myself stressed out and sobbing. You won't believe it at the beginning, but Armor becomes intensely emotional, especially for what's considered a "military SF" novel. This is not merely "military SF" -- it's a novel about suffering, compassion, love, and the human survival instinct. It just takes a while to get there, which makes it even more gratifying when it finally shows itself.

I listened to Blackstone Audio's version of Armor, narrated by Tom Weiner. His deep voice was perfect for a story with a bunch of rough men in it, but he did a great job with the female characters, too. I unhesitatingly recommend the audio version.

Armor isn't the perfect novel -- it's hard to believe in the Antwar because we never understand why humans want to be on this toxic planet, it's hard to believe in a computer glitch that can't be fixed, and there's some psychobabble that doesn't hold up to 21st century psychology (Armor was published in 1984), yet this is a powerful, character-focused, deeply emotional novel about human suffering and the will to survive.

The ending of Armor is both devastatingly glorious and agonizingly inconclusive. John Steakley was writing a sequel when he died in November 2010. An excerpt of the sequel, which I believe was not finished, can be found at this fan website. But I don't need a sequel -- I like the way Armor ended.

"Are you there Felix? Are you there?" ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
I listened to the audiobook, so preface my comments with that in mind. I've been thinking how I would review this book, as it's a tricky one. I abandoned it at least two times, it seemed to be just an alien shoot-em-up, think Starship troopers, and i'm not really into investing time into that. But I'm so glad I preserved with reading it. The story begins with Jack Crow, a space pirate making a prison break only to end up aboard a ship full of deserters from the war, this story is interspersed with a running commentary from the war told from the perspective of Felix, an amazingly skilled, but also lucky soldier who is using the armor, from the title, to fight giant alien's nicknamed Ants.

Plot aside, this is a book about heroes, how three men who never wanted it deal with the label. How men like, Jack Crow who's not a " good" person, at least not good for the sake of being good, deal with expectations, responsibilities, emotions that trust from other people brings him. The Jack Crow character isn't that likable but was interesting, he was amazingly flirty with other male characters yet he was this butch hyper masculine character who ended in quite a sick relationship with a female commander.

Overall I really enjoyed this, much more then The forever war by Joe Haldeman which is often given as a recommendation as a similar book. If you enjoy more thoughtful military sci-fi, I'd recommend Armor. ( )
  wifilibrarian | Apr 6, 2014 |
Think Starship Troopers with more character development. It's written in that classic fashion where several people, through a seemingly random course of events, have their stories intertwined. In that regard, think Ken Follet's Fall of Giants. Though the sci-fi environment doesn't match that of books like Forever War, the author's depiction of society (ruled by an ultimate aristocracy, propaganda-laden, etc) makes up for this. And of course, who couldn't love the ant-like aliens? ( )
1 vote mortensengarth | Jul 17, 2013 |
A military action book with heart and compassion. Who would've thunk! Initially, it seemed like one of those SF ideas that goes thus:
Young boy with nothing to do observes an anthill. Puts a stick through one of the small holes and lo and behold finds ants streaming out. Pokes more holes and soon has the whole hive agitated. Imagines he is fighting a battle with the ants. Ants discover him and start coming up his legs. That night, while scratching the itchy welts on his feet, thinks, "What if I wrote a science fiction story about my battle with the ants?" But ... there is more to [b:Armor|102327|Armor|John Steakley|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1309201144s/102327.jpg|604650]. It does take its bursts of adrenaline from the action segments, but it also takes time for introspection and examining the feelings of the characters, though not to the extent of being touchy-feely. The book is like its main characters, hard on the outside but emotionally tender. Personal impressions: There is a melancholy in the writing, and an anger at specific aspects of life, ostensibly associated with the military. I read in one of the reviews here on Goodreads (love the earnest folks of this online community!) that the author passed away before a sequel was completed. Maybe this is autobiographical? Not with respect to the Ant War, but in terms of the experiences of the two main characters. If you don't watch out, the underlying sadness could get to you. ( )
1 vote ricaustria | Apr 5, 2013 |
2.5 stars

I sympathized or empathized with Felix. I detested Jack Crow until the last part of the book. I understand some of the motivation and psychosis of Felix, but I'm scratching my head with respect to the Antwar. I must be missing the point with this plot.

Besides Old Man's War, this is the only military science fiction I've read to date. I like the former, I'm ambivalent with the latter. Two more titles await me on my to-be-read list - Starship Troopers and The Forever War. Perhaps they will be an improvement. ( )
  mossjon | Mar 31, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Steakleyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burns, JimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weiner, TomNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
You are
What you do
When it counts.

The Masao
Dedication
To my beloved father,
first (and foremost) John William Steakley—
and to Eagle,
first (and foremost) pal,
this book is gratefully dedicated.

Every single day I love them both.
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He drank alone.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0886773687, Mass Market Paperback)

The military sci-fi classic in a striking new package

Felix is an Earth soldier, encased in special body armor designed to withstand Earth's most implacable enemy-a bioengineered, insectoid alien horde. But Felix is also equipped with internal mechanisms that enable him, and his fellow soldiers, to survive battle situations that would destroy a man's mind.

This is a remarkable novel of the horror, the courage, and the aftermath of combat-and how the strength of the human spirit can be the greatest armor of all.



(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:11 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The planet was called A-9. The air was unbreathable, the water poisonous. But it had to be conquered, for it was the home world of the most implacable enemies that cosmically expanding humanity had yet encountered.

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