Armored
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
If you know me then you know I absolutely hate short stories. If you don't know me: Hello nice to meet you, I hate short stories. I hate all short fiction really, novellas and poems and such. I took a fiction writing course and it was all about writing short fiction. I hated that too. But! If there was ever an anthology I was ever going to enjoy it had to be ARMORED, edited by John Joseph Adams and published by Baen. A whole collection of stories solely based around my favorite science fiction concept - power armor. With a foreword by Orson Scott Card and an unbeatable roster of authors from Dan Abnett to Brandon Sanderson to Tobias Buckell, ARMORED could be the military sci-fi Promised Land. So how did it fare? Read on.

The anthology opens up with a foreword by Orson Scott Card that really sets the stage for the stories to come. This is followed by an introduction by John Joseph Adams that also amps readers up and gets the gears going. Rather than review each of the stories (there are 23 in all) I will just dip into the highlights, and man are those highlights difficult to choose from. This anthology is just that good.

"The Johnson Maneuver" by Ian Douglas starts the book with a bang. Douglas knows his Marine Corps history and aptly develops the image of future soldiers in a satisfying fashion. The power armor featured is cool (and this is just ceremonial armor!) and the aliens are really interesting. The most important part of the story as the opening act of a whole collection about power armor is the reminder that it is never about the armor, it's about the man inside.

"Jungle Walkers" by David Klecha and Tobias S. Buckell is a near future tale that pits an unarmored weapons platoon in South America against some very heavy metal. I think what I liked most about this story was that the heroes aren't the guys wielding the devastating weapons of the future. The story also goes a little into the politics of the conflict which are at once familiar and yet different.

"Death Reported of Last Surviving Veteran of Great War" by Dan Abnett is a great example of why I love Dan Abnett and hate short fiction. The story is told in a very vague, testimonial style that teases the imagination. I would love to learn more about the protagonist and the world he inhabits but I realize the lack of detail and brief length hold the most punch and successfully encapsulate the nature of short-story telling.

"Find Heaven and Hell in the Smallest Things" by Simon R. Green is very cool and creepy. Green shows us a world that hates and desperately wants to kill any intruders. The world itself is hostile to human life and the very flora strives to eradicate the unwelcome. A great distinction of this story is that the power armor is actually a prison to the occupant, a life saving death sentence.

"The Last Days of the Kelly Gang" by David D. Levine is probably one of my favorite stories of the collection. This story features some rough riding Australian desperadoes and a suit of steampunk power armor. This is a very unique story that just oozes awesome and I'm not even that big of a steampunk fan.

"Field Test" by Michael A. Stackpole is another of my favorites. The story actually takes place during the revolution in Libya. The armor of this story is cool while being believable. The action is great and, again, believable. I can totally imagine a mech like the one in the story, running around performing black ops missions in destabilized countries.

"Heuristic Algorithm and Reasoning Response Engine" by Ethan Skarstedt and Brandon Sanderson is perhaps the story I am most iffy about. On one hand there are some extremely cool concepts to be found in the story, from the mechs to the self replicating machines. Then on the other hand the dialogue is offensively artificial and more than a little Anime-style melodramatic. Oh and the mech's artificial intelligence, HARRE, is probably the most annoying AI that I have ever encountered. I'm pretty love/hate about this story as well.

"The Green" by Lauren Beukes is probably my absolute favorite story of the collection. I had heard of Beukes before but never read her fiction. This story has just won me over. It is ironic because the story features no action, a shallow but ever present desire of my reading habits. Instead Beukes displays some superb world building capabilities, creating an environment that is even more haunting and subtle than Simon R. Green's short.

All in all, ARMORED is a fantastic anthology. I loved most all of the stories, and 23 stories by some of the best authors in science fiction and fantasy for paperback price is just a steal. If you're like me, and just the words "power armor" get your blood pumping then go grab a copy and let the metal fly.

Recommended Age: 14+
Language: Some but never offensively blatant
Violence: Tons, but none of it is excessively gory
Sex: Implied once or twice, nothing extensive

Nick Sharps
Elitist Book Reviews
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2012
Allow me to put it out there from the get go that I was interested in reading this book because I am a big Brandon Sanderson fan and enjoyed his short story Firstborn. All but one other author were unknown to me, but I had high hopes for this anthology. There are plenty of stories in here to enjoy and get your mental gears turning, but there are also several that were either difficult to follow (and thus not enjoyable) or simply uninteresting. I will touch on each story briefly and try not to be too verbose.

[The Good (or stories I enjoyed and had a positive impact)]

The Johnson Maneuver
The book starts with a futuristic retelling of an amazing real life event. Very enjoyable and a perfect opening story for this anthology.

Hel's Half-Acre
Amusing war story with a great twist that had me sadistically laughing.

Find Heaven and Hell in the Smallest Things
Neat concept with an ending I didn't see coming but enjoyed.

Armor: A Love Story
A love story, in a military science fiction story? Call me dumbstruck, but I liked it!

Trauma Pod
Not a lot in terms of action, but gives off a mysterious vibe that pays off at the end. As a side note, given the futuristic setting, I couldn't help but shake my head at the author's use of IPv4 for communication when, today, IPv6 is being pushed since we're running out of IPv4 addresses.

Nomad
Initially confusing due to the frequent use of the odd terminology, but ultimately an enjoyable read.

Human Error
Interesting concept where the alien enemy is fungus and the protagonists try to figure out how to defeat them using armor made for giant starfish.

Transfer of Ownership
A very short but neat story told from an AI's perspective, where it tries to decide between doing what it's told or rebelling.

Sticks and Stones
One of my favorite stories in the anthology with a very humorous ending.

[The Decent (or stories that are mildly amusing but ultimately fade into obscurity)]

Jungle Walkers
Lots of action pitting Marines against a foe more powerful than them, but that's about it.

Last Days of the Kelly Gang
A decent story that felt like a retelling from the Iron Man movie when Tony created his first armor in the desert.

Contained Vacuum
Pretty good action with traces of an interesting story that leaves you without much more than you started with.

Don Quixote
Interesting take on a before-its-time mech.

The Poacher
The story is not particularly great, but it entertains through and through.

[The Bad (or stories I did not like)]

Last Run of the Coppelia
Difficult to follow with an ominous ending, but no real pay off.

The Cat's Pajamas
Started off intriguing, but longer than it needed to be and felt like it was built up for the ending's punch line that failed to deliver.

Heuristic Algorithm and Reasoning Response Engine
The reason why I picked this up in the first place. Immediately thrust into a situation that you know nothing about and are trying to figure out, only to end with no satisfaction. Sanderson co-authored this, and while I see his hand in some of the writing, a part of me wants to blame Ethan Skarstedt for not liking this story because Sanderson's novels have a great track record with me.

The Green
Zombies meet powered armors. Nothing really to enjoy in this story.

Helmet
Monotonous, dull and unsatisfying. Feels like a story trying to pull off what Apple did in their 1984 Macintosh commercial, but you ultimately don't care because the setting just doesn't make sense.

[The Others (or stories that fall between the cracks)]

Field Test
This one falls between Good and Okay. Initially I kept getting confused between who was where due to the seemingly odd dialog between characters, but the story has some decent action and an amusing finish.

You Do What You Do
Another difficult to follow story with a nice twist in bonding flesh to armor.

Death Reported of Last Surviving Veteran of Great War
Really short story that would be more interesting if they made it into, well, a story, rather than more or less an obituary.

The N-Body Solution
Falling between decent and bad. Nearly halfway through the story do things start to finally make sense in the character's situation, only to be given an unsatisfying conclusion that, rather than give you something to chew on, leaves you with too much ambiguity that makes mulling over it a bad thing.

Most of the stories are worth reading. Others, not so much, including Sanderson's. Unfortunately the book gets judged as a whole, bringing down the overall rating. I cannot give it 3.5 stars, so because there are more positives than negatives, I gave it four stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2013
John Joseph Adams is quickly becoming my editor du jour, with numerous anthologies on different themes sitting on my bookshelf (or in my "I want this book" database). I love short stories anyway, which makes the anthologies even more attractive. Armored is an anthology about powered armor in all its forms, mostly set in distant science fiction settings. As with many anthologies, it's not a perfect mix of stories, with some being more of a chore to read. Overall, though, it's an excellent collection that will keep you wanting to read just one story before putting it down for the night.

You might think stories all based around armor of some kind wouldn't contain much variety. You would be wrong. One of the best stories in the collection, "The Cat's Pajamas" by Jack McDevitt, is simply a story about rescuing a cat from an isolated station that has been exposed to space. Armor doesn't serve to protect from firearms here, as in most of the other stories. Instead, it's just a spacesuit used to get from the rescuer's ship to the station and get the cat back. McDevitt fills even such a simple-sounding story with tension and excellent characterization.

Another interesting tale, Karin Lowachee's "Nomad," is about a futuristic society where armor with artificial intelligence is bonded with children at an early age. This story follows the relationship that develops between an AI and the man "she" has been bonded with, and what happens when that man is killed. It's almost a society of intelligent armor, quite a fascinating concept.

The stories don't all take place in the future. "The Last Days of the Kelly Gang" actually takes place in 1880s Australia and involves the notorious Australian criminal Ned Kelly and an old man named Ike who is forced to create a suit of steam-powered armor so that Kelly can fight off the law closing its noose around him. A brilliant inventor, Ike self-exiled after the mishap of one of his greatest inventions. It's a nice character piece about the man and his regrets, as well as his relationship with the gang as he races against time to build the armor, hoping that Ned won't kill him in the process.

That's the common theme throughout most of these stories: character. Despite all of the stories being about armor of some sort, most of the authors manage to create vivid characters that make the stories interesting even as we marvel at the creativity behind just how the armor works.

Not all of the stories work as well. Carrie Vaughn's "Don Quixote" takes place during the Spanish Civil War. Two Republican soldiers have built some powered armor that could reverse the tide of the war against Franco's Nationalists. A photographer and reporter happen upon them and stay with them for a bit, until one of them realizes that something as dangerous as this armor should not exist. I didn't find myself caring about the characters that much, and the ending seems a bit clichéd.

Armored is an impressive collection of stories with few that I didn't at least enjoy a little bit, even if they didn't quite work for me (even "Don Quixote" was an entertaining read). With 23 stories filling out the anthology, it's well worth your time to check out.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book © Dave Roy, 2013
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2013
Starship Troopers is one of my favorites, and I have read every piece of powersuit sci-fi I could find since then. This collection was made for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2014
Armored (2013) is a SF anthology. This volume contains twenty-three original stories, a foreword, and an introduction.

- "Foreword" by Orson Scott Card explains how he became entangled in the Marvel Comics Iron Man publications.

- "Introduction" by John Joseph Adams describes some of the topics within these stories.

- "The Johnson Maneuver" by Ian Douglas puts a Marine Gunnery Sergeant into a bind, which can have disastrous results.

- "Hel's Half Acre" by Jack Campbell is a commentary about generals.

- "Jungle Walkers" by David Klecha & Tobias S. Buckell places flesh and blood Marines in a firefight with enemy walkers and exos.

- "The Last Run of the Coppelia" by Genevieve Valentine entangles ocean divers in a covert operation.

- "Death Reported of Last Surviving Veteran of Great War" by Dan Abnett is a news item about a 314 year old man.

- "The Cat's Pajamas" by Jack McDevitt involves Hutch in the rescue of a cat.

- "Find Heaven and Hell in the Smallest Things" by Simon R. Green pits armored persons against a world of plants.

- "Power Armor: A Love Story" by David Barr Kirtley brings a man back in time.

- "The Last Days of the Kelly Gang" by David D. Levine is a steampunk story set in Australia.

- "Field Test" by Michael A. Stackpole follows a CIA operation in Libya.

- "Trauma Pod" by Alastair Reynolds confuses a man with his armor.

- "Contained Vacuum" by David Sherman pits a STARFist squad against Skinks in space.

- "You Do What You Do" by Tanya Huff merges a woman with her machine.

- "Nomad" by Karin Lowachee compels an armor suit to discover the truth on its man.

- "Human Error" by John Jackson Miller mixes up an order for personal armor

- "Transfer of Ownership" by Christie Yant teaches an exosuit a vital lesson.

- "Heuristic Algorithm and Reasoning Response Engine" by Ethan Skarstedt & Brandon Sanderson forces an armored suit to make a decision.

- "Don Quixote" by Carrie Vaugn discloses the superior tank produced by a pair of Spanish peasants.

- "The Poacher" by Wendy N. Wagner & Jak Wagner exposes a young ranger to a breach in regulations.

- "The Green" by Lauren Beukes divulges the hostile conditions in an offworld biological harvesting operation.

- "Sticks and Stones" by Robert Buettner depicts a duel between a young boy and a giant.

- "Helmet" by Daniel H. Wilson pits two brothers against a tyranny.

- "The N-Body Solution" by Sean Williams solves an error in the Loop.

These tales cover a wide range of armor applications and subjects. The variety is most impressive. Although there were some overlapping themes, each story is very different.

The story "Power Armor: A Love Story" has enough twists and turns for a full novel. Every page had a new revelation. It is amazing how much story is packed in those few pages.

The story "Field Test" is a pure wish fulfillment fantasy. Who wouldn't want to ride Kane or break Trask's nose?

The range of authors is also fantastic. From newcomers to well known, all these writers produced spectacular results. The editor should be congratulated for collecting these authors.

Highly recommended for Adams fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of armed combat, personal armor, and a bit of romance. Read and enjoy!

-Arthur W. Jordin
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2014
Not a single weak story (for me) - enjoyed it tremendously. Looking forward to a future sequel, or at least hoping!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2013
There is a broad mix of themes across the stories in the volume, covering basically every angle of the 'man in powered armour' idea that I can think of. Give it a go!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2013
I know JJA from "The Geek's Guide to the Galaxy", but this anthology is the first of his I've read.
Nice job with the selection of stories.
The stories are a great variety from speculative fiction sub-genres. There is something for everyone.
The battle doesn't go only to the fast and strong. Ammunition has a limit. The enemy is not always obvious.
Good way to kill and afternoon (and hordes of space bugs).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2013
I enjoyed the majority of the short stories and will definitely look up some of the authors that had great stories. I was a big fan of the book Armor and couldn't pass up a book in it's honor.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2013
This is the book for you. I'm not making a critical review - analyzing the writing or characterizations, but it was a very fun read. The only complaint about the fun level is that I wish many of the stories were much longer.

Of Mice and Men this isn't, but for a solidly entertaining read, I give it 5 stars.
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