Powerful Pages - Armor by John Steakley (from 1984)
Armor is a tough book to review. Clunky and uneven to the point that it feels downright amateurish at times, it also boasts sequences that are nothing short of superlative. Even when it misfires, the book is involving, and the author manages to hook us on his colorful characters even when they veer toward caricatures and the non-stop action threatens to bludgeon us into tedium. It isn't easy to maintain the pace that Steakley sets, and it's hard to work on such a scale without shattering the ability to sustain belief. I don't think that Steakley ever drops the ball, but he comes damn close enough that I'm inclined to think that many may disagree with me on that front. In fact, some may determine that he drops the ball repeatedly. Armor hammers us with gruesome battles in an endless war and a steady tide of machismo with the volume turned all the way up. And yet there is a lot of insight into the psychology of war and the devious political mechanics of combat masquerading as industry. There is an attachment to the protagonists that doesn't waver but steadily mounts. There is a conclusion that ties a nice bow on the proceedings while posing new questions. At the end of the day, Armror is all about Felix, a man for whom death is a way of life, and Jack Crow, a rogue who is either the most dangerous man in the galaxy or an utter buffoon. If you enjoy their antics as much as I did, you will find a lot to enjoy with this overblown sci-fi yarn. At the same time, anyone yearning for literary prowess is apt to toss this one into the nearest trashcan. I'm going to recommend it with some trepidation--and a robust guarantee that none of my readers will find it boring.
Final Grade: C+