John Steakley's "Armor"

I hope this isn’t too obscure.

I’ve just finished re-reading John Steakley’s novel, Armor for about the third or fourth time. It’s one of those (very few) books I read again every few years and always enjoy. I’m always amazed at how a premise which seems so campy on its face (fighting giant space ants on an alien planet) can somehow manage to be so affecting. The battle sequences are visceral and absorbing, but not in a convential “action/adventure” sort of way. Steakley’s prose makes the battles (and specifically Felix’s experience of them) grim, horriffic, stark and lonely. The reader wants Felix to survive but doesn’t really care about winning the war. Those first few chapters are relentless and riveting. It’s non-stop action but it’s not rousing so much as exhausting and bleak consistently tense.

Then the novel makes an abrubt leap into what seems to be the middle of an entirely different story. The Jack Crow stuff eventually becomes engrossing enough in its own right that the reader has almost forgotten about Felix by the time the story loops back to him.

Anyway, I’ve always found it all to be a ripping good read and I was wondering how many other people around here have read it and what they thought of it. People always think it sounds like a cheesy Starship Troopers rip-off when I try to tell them about it but despite the superficial similarities it’s really quite a different book.

Am I crazy or is John Steakley’s Armor an under-recognized gem?

Under-recognized gem. Judging from the cover, you’d think it’s mega-cheesy (or at least a hokey response to Starship Troopers), but it really is very good. I thought the ending was great.

Steakley’s Vampire$ is also well worth reading.

Another vote for “gem”, and for Vampire$.

Excellent book—just intensely sad in tone. So is Vampire$.

Agreed. I rarely go a year or two without picking it back up and giving it a re-read.

I couldn’t make it through the first chapter.

I enjoyed Armor, but the book really made no sense.
Ok, lets fight an endless army of aliens on an uninhabitable planet using only ground troops. We lose most of the highly trained guys and their expensive equipment we send down by the teleporters, and each man has a nuke plant on his back that can be set to explode.
They really should cut out that middle bit and just teleport down NUKES.
The only logical explaination is that the military dosn’t want to win. It makes the tactics in Starship Troopers (movie version) look logical.