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Armor by John Steakly

Updated: Oct 4, 2019

Why do they call them ants?
Powered Armor used to wield a club; what else do you need?

This is one of the best science fiction books of all time, and one of the most misunderstood. The story-telling is little slow in parts, but does the best job of exploring the human condition of any book I've ever read. There are multiple different characters with more depth than many books' protagonist, each with their own desires, world views, and flaws. There's a reason it's been on the shelf at book stores for 23 years.

One of the biggest misconceptions about this book lies in identifying the protagonist. Most people seem to assume that since the story starts by chronicling the exploits of Felix that the story is about him. Common complaints stemming from this viewpoint have to do with the lack of closure in Felix's story, the lack of backstory (a backstory as interesting as Jack the Ripper's I'm sure) for Jack Crow, or the inclusion of Crow at all.

But the story is most definitely told from the point of view of Jack Crow. In fact, as you read you come to realize that the entire book is being told from this viewpoint. On top of this is the fact that this story revolves around the change wrought in Crow due to the experiences of Felix. In fact, Felix is the antagonist of this story. It is his experience, his personality, that opposes Crow's to the point of making him reexamine his value system.

This view is backed up in the first chapter of the sequel John Steakly was working on (before he died of liver disease) where we discover that the first book was actually Jack Crow's memoirs of these events. Sadly, people who cling to the idea that Felix is the main character of the book are cheating themselves out of most of its depth and will most certainly be left feeling a lack of catharsis.

I actually tried to correct this on the Wikipedia page but it was reverted in less than a minute (meaning the person doing so gave it as much thought as Napoleon's plan to invade Russia in the dead of winter) and I was sent a warning about vandalism. I personally was unaware that correcting this minor detail (I added 2 words and changed 1) was the same as spraying graffiti on a freeway underpass.

Note: its not. The definition of vandalism refers to destruction of property, and Wikipedia's own policies make it clear that these entries are no one's property. But, hopefully this entry will keep you from missing half of this amazing story.

Regardless of that perfectly ground ax, this book will grab you and not let go until long after you've finished the last page. It's characters are rich, its action is well written, and its exploration of the human condition is insightful. I grade this book at 97%.

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