Review – Armor by John Steakley

Posted: June 16, 2014 in Sci-Fi, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

20140616-195724-71844098.jpg

I’ve come across numerous recommendations for Armor, many of them stating that it was underrated, perhaps even a little obscure. Yet, all offering up praise for its bold and unique take on military science fiction ideas and great story. I’m going to wholeheartedly agree with the latter of those statements. To me, John Steakley’s novel is a must read if you enjoy science fiction with a military emphasis. Who doesn’t like their fiction filled with power armour, space aliens and brutal warfare?

Published in 1984, the book, however retains a poignant and very modern message regarding the futility and horror of battle. Rather than glorifying combat, Steakley reveals the terror and desperation, the adrenaline and addiction, and the all consuming cost that war can have on the human psyche. It is also a gripping and brilliantly conceived book that hooked me from the outset.

Told from two perspectives, the first quarter of the book follows Felix, a new Fleet recruit in the Antwar, who is suddenly thrust into battle. Unprepared and against all odds he survives – again and again as he fights massive, mindless ‘ant’ monsters on the planet Banshee. The dislocating fear, coupled with his need to survive brings into being ‘the engine’; his coping mechanism and his other self. A self that is cold and murderous. We are then introduced to Jack Crow, a space pirate fleeing prison. His story takes him to the planet Sanction, where he becomes embroiled in the politics and machinations of a pirate intent on taking the planet for his own, destroying the Fleet science base and removing the owner, a drunk named Lewis. The ruse Crow employs to get himself into the science base is an old set of power armour that he offers to the director of the base.

That armour turns out to have been owned by Felix and the rest of his story is then told through the eyes of Crow and the scientist as they watch his battles, his injuries, his descent into the hell that is Banshee as ‘the engine’ takes over. It’s a powerful tool to explain the horror that is war but also the mindlessness of the bureaucracy that runs it. They literally watch the craziness unfold and we see how it affects them, even at such a remove. Eventually, we are returned to the perspective of Felix and certain motives are explained though I’m not going to say more for fear of spoiling the novel.

The writing style reminded me of Jack Kerouac or JD Salinger at times with it’s flowing inner dialogue. But it is the driving, relentlessness of both the main characters that forces the book along at a a staggering pace. Each protagonist exudes toughness but also an internal brokenness about them. Steakley captures it so well, forcing the characters to be both leaders and warriors whilst simultaneously questioning and reflecting on their situations.

In short, it’s a furious story about war, insectile aliens and pirates. In truth, it’s about the human psyche, motivations and morality. It came highly recommended and now I can pay it forward.

My copy
Published by DAW

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s