John Steakley’s ARMOR (, Daw) is regarded, in many ways, as a companion to Heinlein’s STARSHIP TROOPERS. In interviews given at. John Steakley only published two relatively obscure novels in his life. The first, published in , was Armor, and while taking clear inspiration. The military sci-fi classic of courage on a dangerous alien planet The planet is called Banshee. The air is unbreathable, the water is poisonous. It is.
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John Steakley only published two relatively obscure novels in his life. The first, admor inwas Armor, and while taking clear inspiration from Robert Heinlein’s Starship Ojhn, it presupposed the space marine subgenre by a few years. Even before Steakley passed away in from liver cancer he had faded from public view, with only a few projects like Armor II in the pipe.
Steakley himself led an uneventful life. After attaining a BA in English from Southern Methodist University he made his way to Hollywood, wrote several unmade films and script doctored projects he could never discuss. This proved demoralizing and he returned to Texas.
He spent time on the set of Vampires but reportedly butted heads with Carpenter, who was battling with the studio over budget cuts. None of this came to pass, although he did release excerpts of Armor II online excerpts that are now almost impossible to find.
At the start, Felix is a “greener”, a new recruit about to do his first drop into battle as a scout. The planet is Banshee, a desolate wasteland, and the initial battle is a disaster with only Felix surviving. The new lead is Jack Crow, a space pirate that escapes prison and falls in with a motley crew aiming to heist a research colony.
Along the way Crow discovers an old suit of armor, and revelations result. Jack Crow is the leader of a group of Vatican-sanctioned vampire hunters.
With the religious johh, these are relatively traditional creatures of the night affected by churches, blessed silver and the sun, and Team Crow has never been able to kill one at night.
After a job goes bad with heavy casualties, Crow has to rethink his battle plan, especially since the blood-sucking fiends know his name.
He introduces the idea of silver bullets to his squad and recruits an armo buddy from his Stealley days, a “gunman” named Felix. Felix, however, is a steakpey warrior and only agrees to help on certain conditions, namely money and a temporary status.
The pieces in place, they take the fight to the enemy. Arkor eventual movie adaptation would only take this as a loose framework, with the first 15 minutes staying relatively true to the source material only to veer off in a new direction that included leaving Felix out.
So why reuse the same two characters? This Jack Crow is no other Steak,ey Crow”, a nip in the bud for any naysayers. In Newman’s case, however, there’s a bit of meta play going on as the latter two feature a who’s who of fictional icon appearances, so Newman is perhaps inducting stfakley into the canon.
There’s also the fact that he likes the character and wanted to see how she would react under completely different circumstances. More than likely that’s what Steakley was aiming for, a kind of “what if? If you were born in a different era, under different circumstances, would you still be you? Felix is the POV character at the start of Armorwith the third-person perspective armot him at a distance.
He’s quiet and resentful, lamenting the futility of war, especially on an intergalactic scale. He’s not from Earth, but it’s unclear where he was born. He’s fearful but relents to the Engine, allowing it to take charge with little resistance. Later in his life, and this is treated as a twist in the book so this is technically a spoilerhe becomes a wealthy ranch owner named Lewis, a pacifist drunk that doesn’t allow weapons on his planet. He does, however, don his armor one more time and saves Crow’s life in the process.
He’s a former man of violence, an ex-drugrunner that Crow met in Mexico.
Armor (novel) – Wikipedia
He’s constantly referred to as “gunman” by the other vampire hunters, and is admired for his inherent, almost unconscious skill that kicks in during battle. This is described as being “Like a robot” by one character, and not coincidentally, “Like a machine. Jack Crow is similarly comparable between the two books. He’s introduced in Armor as telling his story from first-person perspective, a remorseless pragmatist that caves in a dwarf’s face while escaping incarceration.
He doesn’t have much patience for nonsense, is quick to bed willing participants, and his eyes light up at the sight of green. He’s a pirate, sure, but he also has a heart of gold and under pressure will do the right thing. Crow also has little respect for authority and is dismissive of war from the perspective of a draft dodger, his morals and sense of self-preservation having led him to a life of crime.
They don’t want to fight at all. They simply want to beat you up.
This Crow is much more straightforward in his heroism, taking this as a credo to stand up for the little guy, whereas the pirate considers it a philosophy on why to pre-emptively take out an enemy. Bt lifestyle has a toll, so Crow drinks hard to avoid the memories and the ghosts of eteakley former comrades that stakley his dreams.
He also keeps his living friends closer, and finds a kinship in Felix that only men of war understand. So what was Steakley hoping to accomplish with this repurposing of characters? Regardless of his claims it’s apparent they are the same people in what is perhaps a book-length long meditation on fatalism. One doesn’t need to be too literal; no time travel is involved, and the future versions are not reincarnations of past lives.
Forgotten Authors: Why John Steakley’s ‘Armor’ and ‘Vampire$’ are Worth Remembering | LitReactor
It’s an author remixing the parameters of a life and still determining that the whole of human existence will result in the same essence. Felix is eternally plagued by ennui and yet cannot escape the inevitability of his ability to kill.
Jack Crow, as well, is destined to be a roguish scoundrel with a hidden conscience. Not for this planet. It would end for this brave young soul seated beside him.
This is one of the great tragedies. Salinger and Harper Lee whose dearth of output helped build a mystique and appreciation, Steakley is nearly forgotten just five years after his death. He was never critically acclaimed or taught in the classroom, and the one adaptation of his work has the director’s name above the title.
He is, however, a fascinating author that was able to approach character from multiple perspectives. Even without the question of Felix and Steakey Crow, Steakley has extremely readable prose with crackling action scenes and hilarious gallows humor. He’s an author that is ready for a resurgence.
A professor once told Bart Bishop that all literature is about “sex, death and religion,” tainting his mind forever. A Master’s in English later, he teaches college writing and tells his students the same thing, constantly, much to their chagrin. Johnn lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and daughter.
To leave a comment Login with Facebook or create a free account. I actually saw the movie adaptation first, and it is one of my favorite bad movies of all time. Even though it was terrible, I found the concept intriguing enough that when I noticed “Based on the novel by John Steakley” in the credits I immediately went out and scoured Half-Price Books for a weathered paperback that I read and re-read until it disintegrated.
I had no idea Steakley had died, or that he only published one other book.
Do I steakpey out and read it now, or save it, knowing it’s the last new Steakley I will ever read? I’d say read it as soon as possible! Armor is, in my opinion, the superior novel of Steakley’s duo. It’s also incredibly rich and has a few twists, lending itself to a second readthrough. With his passing, we’ll never know for sure I’ve read it twice and reading about it in this article makes me want to read it a third time.
Man I wish someone would try to finish Armor It’s nice to see someone discussing Steakley instead of responding with “Huh? I’m the guy who ran John’s website for about 14 years, and the guy who posted that hard to find excerpt from Armor 2 on it.
If you were to ask John about why he reused the names Felix and Jack Crow, he’d tell you it’s because he liked the names. He’s likely have shaken his head in confusion at all your talk about ojhn being the same character despite his claims that they weren’t. He reused the names in all 4 of his short stories including both set armot Robert Adams’ Horseclans universe, and he had a half written third novel titled Gabriel that he let me post an excerpt of online, after instructing me to change on of the characters’ names to Felix.
He was in talks to produce a novelization but never got around to it when he died. I appreciate being corrected, although I’d argue you’ve only complicated the matter from a “death of the author” perspective.
I first met John at the Dallas Fantasy Fair in He was engaging, witty and did a reading from his upcoming book Armor. We hit it off and became roommates 3 months later. I was there when we got the first books in the mail from DAW.
Forgotten Authors: Why John Steakley’s ‘Armor’ and ‘Vampire$’ are Worth Remembering
We lived together for many years, and I would sit and paint while he would write all day in longhand on yellow legal pads. I have very many fond memories of this man and think his short story FLYER had the best opening line ever.
First, thank you Mr Bishop for your words about this amazing author. I think a close adaptation of Armor with the budget of Game of Thrones would be about the only way to do this saga justice. Alpern, thank you for running the website back in the day.
I checked in several times and gleaned all I could from it. I was a fanboy before the term was coined, for sure. I was always disappointed that there was never much in the way of hype about upcoming books or movies.
Now I know why.
Science fiction is all the poorer for Mr Steakley’s unborn work. And to Mr Bruce. Thanks for being his friend and for whatever motivation and support you gave him while he was writing his books. My condolences at the loss of your friend. And then there are the situations that cause the Engine to kick in and “Felix” to emerge. Whether reading Armor a dozen times or more gave me that framework, or if it is innate in some of us or all of us, or if the book only gives us the analogy to describe it Skip to Main Content Area.