Armor - John Steakley If Armor comprised pages 7-89 and 261-374 (in my edition, i.e., Felix’s story), John Steakley would have had the “gripping, forceful and compelling…tour de force” the cover blurb promises. Something that really could compare to Starships Troopers or The Forever War. Instead he had to go and break the narrative with Jack Crow’s story. It’s a WTF moment as you’re roughly torn from the claustrophobic, terrifying, soul-crushing milieu of Banshee to…the cafeteria of an alien prison. And Steakley never recovers the narrative momentum. It’s a colossal error in story-telling judgment.

As in Vampires, Steakley can write effective scenes of psychological torture that puts you there, even if you don’t want to be. But he’s not that compelling or original elsewhere. He still can’t write a believable female character – Lya is another impossibly good Madonna, and Karen is the damaged whore. In a different novel and a better writer’s hands, Jack and Karen’s relationship might have been interesting but here it’s trite and melodramatic. (Though I did like Steakley’s coda: “Karen is not pregnant and won’t be. Yes, we’re still together. But we are not, repeat: not happy. But I guess we’ll keep at it anyhow.” (p. 426))

And the surprise ending was anything but. I could see it from several kilometers away. It’s been done before. At the very least, Borglynn could have turned out to be Kent. That would have been an interesting development in that character.

Read the “Felix” sections because they really are quite good and skip the rest.