Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Armor - John Steakley



Title: Armor
Author: John Steakley
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 1984
Formats: Paperback

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
Armor by John Steakley is a military science fiction novel in a similar vein to Heinlein's Starship Troopers. The story is split into two distinct sections, the first features Felix, a soldier fighting in a war against an alien ant like race. He is sent on mission after mission, with a form of split personality helping him to face the horrors and keep on fighting. The second features a space pirate named Jack Crow (If you imagine Disney’s Jack Sparrow you wouldn’t be far off) who finds Felix’s armour several years later whilst undertaking a con who uses it to learn and understand what happened to Felix.

The first part of the book is truly action packed and quiet intense, with Steakley doing a great job with his vivid and quite chaotic sounding portrayal of the battles. This section of the story really did remind me of Starship Troopers, with the huge quantity of large ant like enemy, the pure brutality of the fight and the huge loss of life. I have to admit it can get a bit repetitive as there is only so much variety you can add when you are fighting an insect like enemy on a rather barren planet but I never found myself getting bored of the action scenes.

As you start the second part of the novel you do experience a bit of a shock, the pace slows down hugely and you are suddenly faced with a new character to learn about. This isn’t helped by the fact that we actually learn very little about Jack Crow, he just seems to be a rogue type caricature without any real development. However, as the section progresses and Crow begins to uncover more about what happened to Felix we really begin to understand what war can do to a person's psyche. Felix’s retreat into his alternate personality and the themes of post-traumatic stress really came to the fore here and wonderfully complimented the action packed chaos we were seeing from the armor memory banks.

The only real issue I had with the book was probably in relation to the fact it is split in two. The pacing issues at the beginning of part two and the rather tenuous links between the two elements make it feel to me like Steakley just decided he wanted to merge two novella’s together to create a full blow novel. In a way it would have been nice to have seen him create two different novels, one capturing Felix and the other capturing Crow.

Overall, I did enjoy this adrenaline soaked military sci-fi novel and I wish Steakley had finished the sequel before he died but alas it wasn’t to be. If you like military science fiction, especially novels like Starship Troopers then I suspect you won’t be disappointed if you decide to pick this book up. If you don’t normally read this sub-genre then I also think it would be a good book to try it out with as the post-traumatic stress related themes are actually quite interesting and do compliment the action.