05 August 2010

The FWS Book Review of ARMOR

I just finished Armor by John Steakley, and I wanted to give a review over elements not discussing on Amazon.com, and to break the review up by what is good, and what is not.Armor was published in 1984 by DAW Books, and Mr. Steakley, in interviews, said that he wrote to address certain things that he felt were missing from Starship Troopers, namely action. Armor could be considered a semi-re-imagined Starship Troopers. Both are now concerned to be founding classics of Military Science Fiction.

Most science fiction books start off slow, easing the reader into the author-created world, that is not so with Armor. You are hooked from the first few pages.Mr. Steakley is able to give a reader an a great deal of information about something with out the infamous 'information dumps' that haunt most Sci-Fi. For example, the main armament of the warriors and scouts is a "blazer". Some how, that one word was prefect, and it didn't need anything more.That is his best skill, gave the reader a lot for a little.More over, his combat scenes are direct, simple, and dead-on great. This is what makes the first nearly 100 pages of Armor better than most Military Science Fiction, The overall concept of the ants, the Ant War, and the hints at the Terran society, is all very good. 
My only real complaint with the novel is listed in the ugly section, however there was a style point I wanted to raise here.The book tends to lose its reader with strange labels for landmark features on Banshee. For example, the "knuckle", and this caused me to re-read several parts a couple of times just to get the point. Some reviews stated that Mr. Steakley did this to achieve the confusion of combat, it worked, I was confused. Another point, was the lack of a drop scene. In the book, Mr. Steakley did not write anything about the drop from the warship to Banshee. Instead you get Felix fighting off ants in a very confusing break. This works to give the reader the overwhelming nature of the Ants and conditions on-planet. But, a drop sequence could have given some more character and/or plot development. 
If you have read the book or any review of the novel, then you know what I am going to say here. It's about Jack Crow, the space pirate.The first 100 pages of the novel are all about Felix's first drop on Banshee, and written in 3rd Person POV.Then suddenly, the plot changes to Jack Crow, and it's in 1st Person POV. As someone that writes books, and been rejected, I can only wonder how Armor made it through the publishing process with the sudden change. I don't think that it would have survived in the same way today.The issue is that the Jack Crow section goes on and on, the story, characters are not terribly interesting.  Most of the time, I kept flipping pages to see how much longer before I could get back to Felix and the Antwar.Jack Crow is no Captain Harlock!It is only much later (more than 100 pages!), that we rejoin Felix , and see how the two storylines tie in. My advice, read (and enjoy) the Felix sections, skim the Jack Crow sections

Armor has not received the amount of attention as Starship Troopers, Old Man's War, and The Forever War. There is not upcoming movie, anime, or graphic novel. Armor has been left in book form, which does not help it's least developed portions. A good movie, or graphic novel could clean up some of these shortcoming, much like the Forever War Graphic Novel did for the novel. The long rumored  Armor 2 had an excerpt posted on the official/unofficial John Steakley website in November of 2004. Mr. Steakley has been plagued by health issues over the last few years. He looked okay when I met him in 2002, but at the time, I had not read Armor. The bad thing about the excerpt is that it has Jack Crow in it.
Here is the link:

Yes! The Felix sections are what Starship Troopers book, movie, and CGI series should have been. My advice, again, read the Felix sections, skim the Jack Crow sections.  


  1. I agree 100% with your critique. The Jack Crow episodes were really blah and I couldn't wait to get through them. Thereafter- whenever I read Armor , I go strictly to Felix.

  2. When I recently reedited this blogpost...one of the first here on FWS...it still surprises me that Daw Books, a major publisher, felt this oddball structure. And it seems if the ARMOR 2 book went to press, it would have been mostly about Jack Crow. I do the same as you, when I re-read ARMOR, I skip the Jack "I'm a pirate" Crow sections. It flows much better.
    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. There is no drop sequence because you teleport directly from the ship to the ground.

    I've read this book 4-5 times.

    Also, I liked Jack Crow. :)

  4. The previous comment is correct. The soldiers teleport to the surface. Feeling confused was the idea. Imagine being in a large room on the ship, and in an instant being on the surface in the middle of a large battle.

    I also liked Jack Crow, and the way the Felix and Jack stories crossed.

    I think I've also read it 4 or 5 times. I just purchased the digital version to put on my new tablet, and plan to read it again soon.