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Behind the Mask: An Anthology of Heroic Proportions Paperback – May 16, 2017
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4.5/5 Stars - "Masterfully-written, this compilation lets us peek inside these people's ordinary lives, and shows us that they may not be as different as we think. . . . Absolutely recommend it!"(Inky Reviews)
"In this world where cynicism and noir are popular, I feel that superheroes are the antidote. I found that hopeful vision in those particular stories of Behind The Mask which makes me glad that I read them."(Shomeret: The Masked Reviewer)
Reeks (Love Hurts, 2015, etc.) and debut editor Richardson assemble a series of tales centered on superheroes’ constant struggles with saving the world and maintaining secret identities. . . . A momentous, readable collection, its sole downside being that there are only 20 superhero stories.(Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“Presenting a full range of strong, articulate, varied voices, distinctive troubled characters, and thought-provoking narratives, Behind the Mask stands out as a mighty collection of supremely imaginative and innovative tales.”(Colorado Review - Nicholas Litchfield)
“The variety of approaches to the collections theme is impressive. The characters may have amazing abilities, but their problems and challenges frequently remain in the realm of the human.”(Register Guard | Brian Juenemann)
“Reeks and Richardson have pulled together a treasure trove of 20 stories . . . exploring the lives of superheroes when they’re not saving the world. . . . There is nary a miss in this diverse and thoughtful collection, which will have readers considering what it means to be human.”(Publisher's Weekly)
“Verdict: Fans of superhero fiction will find that these imaginative stories, with their original perspectives, make for a thoroughly worthwhile compilation.”(Library Journal | Jennifer Funk)
“These stories take the tropes that we know all too well and turn them on their ears, lampooning and embracing the cliches in equal measure, humanizing larger-than-life characters with a deft hand.”(San Francisco Book Review)
“Delightfully Entertaining”(New Pages)
(4/5 stars) “[A]n exceptionally high quality anthology.”(Rocket Stack Rank)
“Behind the Mask is a solid anthology, filled with well-written and -edited stories that fans of the super hero genre will enjoy.”(Mad Scientist Journal)
Short fiction readers should seek out . . . Behind the Mask: A Superhero Anthology.(John DeNardo, SF Signal)
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Carrie Vaughn is one of the authors I have read and enjoyed before. Her “Origin Story” was a short, but fun and different look at a “supervillain”. Sarah Pinsker’s “The Smoke Means it’s Working” was also fun. Seanan McGuire, another favourite author, gives us a look at a superhero in the social media age in “Pedestal” . “Destroy the City with Me Tonight” by Kate Marshall was haunting and beautiful. Ziggy Schutz has written a story about a refreshingly human young superhero in “Eggshells”.
I would recommend this anthology to readers of science fiction and fantasy and fans of superheros.
One of the other great things about anthologies is how different the authors' approaches to the topic can be. Some of the stories are from the perspective of characters with superpowers or augmented forms; others have main characters without powers or special abilities. Some reveal the downside to life as a superhero. Some show the flaws of people too often considered infallible. In some stories the hero is not the person with superpowers at all. Some stories make you question who is the hero and who is the villain.
I enjoyed all of the stories in this anthology, probably because I really enjoy the idea of superheroes and the exploration of all the complications that being a superhero brings to everyday life. I really enjoyed "Origin Story" by Carrie Vaughn (I highly recommend her Golden Age books), "Pedestal" by Seanan McGuire, and "Salt City Blue" by Chris Large. Some of the more heartbreaking stories were "As I Fall Asleep" by Aimee Ogden and "Meeting Someone in the 22nd Century or Until the Gears Quit Turning" by Jennifer Pullen.