Monday, June 12, 2017

Behind the Mask: An Anthology of Heroic Proportions, edited by Tricia Reeks and Kyle Anderson

Find this book
(Superhero) A collection of superhero stories focused on the (super)human condition. (78,222 words; Time: 4h:20m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Recommended

"Behind the Mask: An Anthology of Heroic Proportions," edited by Tricia Reeks and Kyle Anderson, published on by .

Behind the Mask contains sixteen original stories, of which we recommend 5 (average would be 3) and recommend against 1 (average would be 3). Of the four reprints, we previously reviewed two, giving them 2 and 3 stars, respectively. Even if we factor those in, this is still an exceptionally high-quality anthology.

Even Superheroes Bleed

These stories explore the joys and sorrows of the human beings behind those masks. They’re not about saving people and blowing things up; they’re about how you feel about things that get blown up, or about cities that demand too much of you, or fans who won’t leave you alone, or parents who can’t cope or won’t help.

This anthology is about characters more than plot, and there's a wide variety of them:
  • Eleven are heroes, two are villains, and three are sidekicks. 
  • Eleven are adults and five are teens. 
  • Twelve are women and four are men. 
Even the three-star stories have strong characters whom we come to care about. What they don't have is thrills, chills, and excitement, which may disappoint some readers.

Specially Recommended

Destroy the City with Me Tonight, by Kate Marshall, takes us to a world where superheroes are victims of a disease which binds them to a particular city and protects their identities by causing everyone to forget who they are without their masks. A young woman hero with a strong sense of duty can't help feeling lonely and taken-advantage-of.


Pedestal, by Seanan McGuire, shows the downside of being a super heroine who struggles to have any sort of a life of her own between attacks from super villains and depredations of her own fans--neither of whom can leave her alone.

Inheritance, by Michael Milne, tells the story of a young boy trying to come to grips with the powers he inherited from his superhero father--a man too busy saving the world to give his son more than the briefest attention.

In The Beard of Truth, by Matt Mikalatos, a young man dutifully reports to the government that he seems to have acquired a super power that make people tell him the truth. Unasked. In great detail.

Over an Embattled City, by Adam R. Shannon, tells how teenage Emma remembers a very different world from the one we live in. One with real superheroes and supervillains who had real fights that destroyed real cities. Now those people only exist in comic books and her own memories. All but one, and she's determined to meet the last superhero and prove she's not crazy.

Other Reviews: Search Web,
Tricia Reeks Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB
Kyle Anderson Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB

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5 & 4 Stories: 5;  Estimated Time: 1h:15m (23K words)
Recommended By Stories: 6;  Estimated Time: 1h:27m (26K words)
Total Stories: 20 (18 reviewed by RSR);  Estimated Time: 5h:50m (105K words)
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Rating: 5 -> Hugo-worthy

Destroy the City with Me Tonight by Kate Marshall  Time: 11m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Superhero) The disease that turns Cass into a superhero makes her almost invisible to ordinary people without her costume.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [5]  Recommended By: RSR:5

Rating: 4 -> Recommended

Inheritance by Michael Milne2  Time: 15m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Superhero) Young Oliver needs to learn how to control his powers, but his superhero dad is always too busy saving the world to help him.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4
Over an Embattled City by Adam R. Shannon1  Time: 19m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Superhero) Teenage Emma remembers when New York City was called “Hyde” and was filled with superheroes and villains, but no one else does. Now there’s just one superhero left, and she desperately needs to talk to him.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4
Pedestal by Seanan McGuire  Time: 18m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Superhero) When she’s not being a superhero, Alice hides in the suburbs to get away from super villains and her fans.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4
The Beard of Truth by Matt Mikalatos  Time: 10m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Superhero Humor) The narrator just developed a new superpower that forces people to tell him the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4

Rating: 3 -> Average

As I Fall Asleep by Aimee Ogden  Time: 10m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Superhero) Cerebrelle wakes up in her enemy’s lair, betrayed by her sidekick perhaps; if only she could remember.
Birthright by Stuart Suffel1  Time: 15m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Mutant Superheroes) The “Darwin Bomb” that turned Sara’s mom into a superhero has affected Sara as well, but the anti-radiation therapy doesn’t seem to be working.
Eggshells by Ziggy Schutz1  Time: 13m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Superhero) Tough and immune to pain, Penny is the “tank” for her team of teenage superheroes. Yet a concussion from a slip on the ice threatens to derail her completely.
Fool by Keith Frady1  Time: 12m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Superhero) Before he destroys the world, Dr. Entropy and his android army need to attend to a few last-minute details.
Madjack by Nathan Crowder  Time: 19m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Superhero) Atlas’s superpower lets her project her emotions onto the audiences she sings for. When her father dies, she finally investigates his claims that he was really a space alien.
Meeting Someone in the 22nd Century or Until the Gears Quit Turning by Jennifer Pullen1  Time: 14m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Near-Future SF) Greg loves Sandra at first sight. Even when she claims to be a cyborg, it doesn’t put him off.
Origin Story by Carrie Vaughn  Time: 12m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Superhero) Mary hasn't seen her ex-boyfriend in eight years, but when she witnesses super-villain "Techhunter" robbing a bank, she sees a strong resemblance.
Quintessential Justice by Patrick Flanagan  Time: 15m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Superhero Humor) Jaleesa manages QED (“The Quixotic Master of Q-Power!”), Uptonville’s only superhero.
The Fall of the Jade Sword by Stephanie Lai  Time: 12m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Steampunk Superhero) Mok-Seung, a young Chinese girl in Melbourne, admires the feats of “The Jade Sword,” an elusive superhero the oppressed Chinese minority believe is one of them.
The Smoke Means It's Working by Sarah Pinsker  Time: 12m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Superhero Humor) Dora wants to be a superhero’s sidekick, and she thinks a job running a rescue robot at the scenes of supervillain attacks is a way to get her foot in the door.
Torch Songs by Keith Rosson  Time: 17m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Superhero) Hideous from chemical burns, a once-beautiful supervillain spends her days on display in a carnival.

Rating: 2 -> Not Recommended

Heroes by Lavie Tidhar  Time: 09m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Historical Fantasy) In 1987 Berlin, Spit and Whirlwind stake out a man Spit should have killed 41 years ago.
Salt City Blue by Chris Large  Time: 20m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
(Superhero) Tough businesswoman Helen Martin tangles with powerful-but-careless superhero Skyball and his beautiful-but-deadly nemesis, Crimson Reign.

Rating: 1 -> Needs Improvement

Rating: Not Reviewed

Ms. Liberty Gets a Haircut by Cat Rambo  Time: 16m (ShortStory)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
Not reviewed by Rocket Stack Rank (reprint).
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [] 
Origin Story by Kelly Link  Time: 26m (Novelette)  IssueBehind the Mask 2017
Not reviewed by Rocket Stack Rank (reprint).
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [] 

1 comment (may contain spoilers):

  1. Meerkat Press arranged a four-week "blog" tour (like a virtual book tour) for Behind the Mask where contributing authors did interviews and made excerpts of their stories available on various reviewer blogs (some more than once). Follow this link for details.