jueves, 31 de mayo de 2012

Armored, edited by John Joseph Adams

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)
Review Soundtrack: I suggest that you read this review while listening to The Trooper by Iron Maiden (Spotify link, Youtube link)

I have mixed feelings about Armored, the anthology of short science fiction stories about powered armors recently edited by John Joseph Adams. It was one of my highly anticipated books of 2012, but after reading it I can't help feeling a bit underwhelmed.

My main concern about Armored is that there is not as much variety as I would have liked and as I was expecting from the awesome lineup of authors. Yes, I know that this is an anthology about armored soldiers and one that has been published Baen. But too many stories were, in my humble opinion, just the straightforward military science fiction tale. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy that kind of story as much as the next guy, but when it comes to themed anthologies I really expect different and surprising takes on the topic at hand (I have sometimes stated this as the Second Golden Rule of Themed Anthologies).

That is not to say that there no original or surprising stories in Armored. There are a number of them and, in fact, I did enjoy those very much. For instance, "The Last Days of the Kelly Gang" by David D. Levine and "Don Quixote" by Carrie Vaughan are extremely interesting approaches to the topic of power armors... with a steampunk flavor. The former takes place in the Wild West and the latter in the Spanish Civil War, and both are original and refreshing. I also liked those stories that were told from the point of view of the armor: "Nomad" by Karin Lowachee and "Transfer of Ownership" by Christie Yant. This idea of making the armor the main protagonist of the story works extremely well and it's exactly the kind of twist that I was expecting to find when reading Armored.

My favorite story was, however, "Power Armor: A Love Story" by David Barr Kirtley. It is an outstanding piece of fiction involving time travel, armored spies and, yes, a love story. The metaphor of the armored lover may be a little too obvious, but the author manages to make it work wonderfully, with the perfect dose of humor, tenderness and mystery. An amazing story that is among my favorite ones published in 2012 so far. A gripping tale that grabs you from the very first paragraph:
It was quite a party. The women wore gowns. The men wore tuxedos. Anthony Blair wore power armor.
I enjoyed reading some of the more straightforward stories, too. I really liked the plot twist in "Hel's Half-Acre" by Jack Campbell and the dark tone in "Find Heaven and Hell in the Smallest Things" by Simon R. Green which really captures the not so glowing side of donning a power armor: 
The armour keeps us alive. The armour makes us strong and powerful. The armour is our life support and our life sentence, a prison we can never leave.
My overall feeling, however, is that most stories missed the opportunity of doing something new and unique by deciding to stay on the trodden path. It is paradoxical, but I think that Armored would have been better an anthology had it included only a subset of the stories. Not because any of them was particularly bad, but because most didn't contribute anything that the others lacked. 

All in all, Armored is a good but not memorable anthology. Some of the stories will stay with me for a long time, but I guess I will remember most of them as just the typical military SF tale.   

(You can also read this review in Spanish/También puedes leer esta reseña en español)

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