Front Cover
Daw Books, 1984 - Fiction - 426 pages
28 Reviews
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 home to the most implacable enemies that humanity, in all its interstellar expansion, has ever encountered.

Body armor has been devised for the commando forces that are to be dropped on Banshee--the culmination of ten thousand years of the armorers' craft. A trooper in this armor is a one-man, atomic powered battle fortress. But he will have to fight a nearly endless horde of berserk, hard-shelled monsters--the fighting arm of a species which uses biological technology to design perfect, mindless war minions.

Felix is a scout in A-team Two. Highly competent, he is the sole survivor of mission after mission. Yet he is a man consumed by fear and hatred. And he is protected, not only by his custom-fitted body armor, but by an odd being which seems to live within him, a cold killing machine he calls "The Engine."

This is Felix's story--a story of the horror, the courage, and the aftermath of combat, and the story, too, of how strength of spirit can be the greatest armor of all.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - ConalO - LibraryThing

This was different than expected in reading different reviews and posts about this book. It was good with a really fun ending but the book was very inconsistent throughout the novel and I found myself ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - cahallmxj - LibraryThing

Title: Armor: a spirit that won't die, a man that wants to. Story Summary: Felix is a anomaly, in more ways than one. He survives when others do not. Drop after drop he is the only scout that returns ... Read full review

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About the author (1984)

It was then, for Felix, it began. The hatred for the briefing officer had expanded to include his superiors, the captain of the ship, the commanders of Fleet itself, and finally the thick-headed idiot humans who had undertaken something as asinine as interplanetary war in the first place. The hatred blazed brightly, then vanished. From somewhere inside came a shock of all-consuming rage, the nova-like intensity of which startled even him. But then the rage was gone, too. It seemed to shoot away like a comet. What replaced the loathing and fury was something very different, something cold and distant and . . . only impersonally attentive. It was an odd being which rose from Felix and through him. It was, in fact, a remarkable creature. It was a wartime creature and a surviving creature. A killing creature.

The Engine, Felix thought. It''s not me. It''s my Engine. It will work when I cannot. It will examine and determine and choose and, at last, act. It will do all this while I cower inside.



To my beloved father,

first (and foremost) John William Steakley--

and to Eagle,

first (and foremost) pal,

this book is gratefully dedicated.

Every single day I love them both.

You are

What you do

When it counts.

--The Masao

Table of Contents



He drank alone.

Which was odd since he didn''t have trouble with people. He had always managed to make acquaintances without much effort. And, despite what had happened, he still liked people. Recently, he had even grown to miss them again. Yet here he was, drinking alone.

Maybe I''m just shy, he thought to himself and then laughed at such a feeble attempt at self-delusion. For he knew what it was.

From his place at the end of the long bar he examined the others in the crowded lounge. He recognized a handful from training. Training was where it had begun. Where he had felt that odd sensation descending upon him like mist, separating him from all those thousands of others around him in the mess hall. It was a dull kind of temporal shock at first, a reaction reverberating from somewhere deep within him. He had somehow felt . . . No, he had somehow known that they all would die.

He shook his head, drained his glass. If he was in the mood for honesty he would have to admit that his chances were no better. No better at all. . . .

He paid the credits for a full bottle and then paid the extra credits to take it out of the lounge. It was strictly against orders on a battle cruiser to have a bottle in one''s personal possession. But on the night before a drop a lot of things were possible. And as the hour for the drop grew nearer, he noticed that his fellows were beginning to take their drinking more seriously.

Outside the lounge wasn''t much better. Lots of bottles had been smuggled out tonight. The ship wasn''t exactly a giant party, but there were enough get-togethers here and there, and enough legitimate crew business here and there, to make it almost impossible to find a quiet place to sit and think. After a while he had settled into an idle rhythm of walking, sipping, smoking, and hunting.

After most of an hour of wandering about the corridors of the immense ship he found himself standing beside the center template strut of Drop Bay One. Drop Bay One was the largest single room in the ship and, since the Terra was the largest warship, the largest single room in space. It was over a hundred meters long and sixty wide. Around him in a checkerboard style were the little square spaces for drop assignment. From here it all began. Thousands of men and women would go into battle from this room. At the same moment, if necessary. The overhead was ten stories above him, criss-crossed with the immense cranes that lowered the equipment of war into position. A hell of a big room, he thought. Bigger even than the Hall of Gold back home where he had first stood at age ten beside the boys and girls of the other nobles and watched the coronation. He and the other children had had a tendency to giggle, he remembered, and so had been placed at the far end of the Hall, away from the throne.

Enough of this, he said to himself. That''s over for me now. It''s far, far away . . .

He sighed, shook his head. He perched himself atop the center strut and lay down on his back and stared up at the distant overhead and didn''t see it.

"Enough sentiment," he said aloud. "It''s time for brainwork. Time, in fact, for a cold logical assessment of the situation." He took a sip from the bottle, lit a smoke, and laughed again. "Fact is, we haven''t got a prayer."

Fact was, most everybody in Fleet nowadays was a rookie. Over sixty percent and rising. That meant six months of advanced training. Nine months tops in the military altogether.

Not much hope there.

Still, the equipment was marvelous and many were surprisingly good with it. He remembered his astonishment at discovering clearly apparent aptitude for, of all things, the battle armor. Most found the power suits almost impossibly alien in practice and couldn''t bring themselves to react in a sufficiently normal fashion. But he, and a few others, had taken to them easily, readily utilizing their potential as the long-sought key to a machine as extension of man''s own puny form.

How odd, he thought, that he should have such bizarre talents. He, of all people, had fit with Fleet''s hopes. . . .

And from there his drunken thoughts slipped into the past like most drunken thoughts of terrified humans. He lay back on the template and blew smoke at the distant cranes. He sipped steadily from the bottle.

He feared.

The hours passed.

Lovers in niches surrounding the perimeter of the Bay took advantage of the sexually integrated warrior class. They rocked and moaned and grasped one another. It was a united, if unorganized, effort by each and all to push the tension-taut present far ahead into the horrors of the future. After a while they would rest from their labors, draining the last of the bottles and lighting the last of the cigarettes. And before thoughts turned inward each and all would notice the glow of the cigarette coal coming from the lone figure who lay on the center template strut in the middle of the vastness of Drop Bay One. They would wonder what the hell it was he was doing there.

Felix, alone and unaware of their curiosity, wondered the very same thing.

* * *

Drop was just under four hours away when Felix reached the chow line. The turnout was sparse this morning. Not surprising, considering the night before. He watched several people back out as the line advanced toward the food. As the smell grew stronger, their faces grew greener until at last they couldn''t take it anymore. A broad-shouldered woman wearing a warrior patch and red eyes got so far as to actually have a plate of the heaping whatever placed in front of her before she vomited loudly onto the floor.

She looked around, wildly embarrassed, to apologize at all others in the line, but found only Felix left. Puzzled, she nodded to him and rushed out the door with her palm clamped firmly over her lips. Felix looked around and laughed. He was indeed alone in the chow line. The young woman had actually emptied the place out.

He wasn''t surprised, but neither was he affected. He stepped over the grumbling clean-up crew and, to the cooks'' amazement, ordered them to heap whatever it was onto his tray.

"I''m hungry," was the only response he would make to their pale faces.

Actually, he was just lucky. Two hours before the rest of the ship had reveille, he had been rudely awakened by the chief of Drop Bay One who had wanted to know just what the hell he was doing sleeping on the center strut. That early start had allowed him to miss the long lines at Medical for a little something for his stomach.

After he found an empty table a fellow from his squad bay, whose name might have been Dikk, appeared beside him.

"Felix, right?" the man asked.

Felix nodded without interrupting his eating. That foamy something the meditechs had given him made him ravenous.

"Well, I''d be careful with all that food if I were you," said Dikk as he sat down. "It''s supposed to be real bad for you if you''re wounded. Like in the stomach, you know?"

Felix nodded that he knew and continued eating. He didn''t want to say that he thought the idea of not eating before this battle was incredibly na´ve. As far as stomach wounds were concerned . . . Anything that could tear through battle armor would leave not a wound but a tunnel.

It wasn''t that he didn''t appreciate doctors. He did. He was impressed by their knowledge, dutifully in awe of their equipment. But doctors didn''t make drops. Doctors didn''t have to fight for days at a time without eating anything but what they could carry. Come to think of it, neither did he. Or at least he hadn''t until today.

He looked over at Dikk''s nervous face and at the hunched shoulders of the handful of others who sat about him in the mess.

None of us have had to fight yet, he thought. But maybe that part was not so bad. What was bad was that they weren''t ready.

Something in his face must have made Dikk uneasy. He mumbled something and left the table. Felix realized he had never said a word to the guy. He had a sudden urge to get up and catch him, to ask him if his name really was Dikk after all. . . .

But he didn''t. He sat where he was and finished the plat

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