tehani's review against another edition

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I'm a fan of superhero stories. I rarely read comics these days, but I seem to enjoy an awful lot of prose novels that take the superhero genre and give it a little twist. In Behind the Mask, there are 20 stories that play with what it is to be a superhero (or supervillain, in some cases). Some could come straight out of the existing comic universes we know, others are far more subtle and different. All are, without exception, highly engaging reads. From stories that are (at least on the surface) played with an edge of humour to those that swing deep into the pits of despair, these stories take on such a variety of aspects that there simply wasn't time to get bored or tired of reading.

It is very unusual for me to immerse in and like (if not love) every single story in an anthology. Statistically, it's unlikely, to say the least. But I genuinely did enjoy each of the stories in this book (16 original works and four reprints, two of them confusingly with the same title!), and can't recommend it enough. But even though I liked them all, I definitely had some favourites.

"Pedastal" by Seanan McGuire - I love Seanan's work, and her Velveteen series is a favourite of mine, so it's no surprise that I really liked this story. It's so very domestic, but still manages to deal with some bigger issues, very gently.

I don't know if I read it with an influenced eye, but "As I Fall Asleep" by Aimee Ogden put me in mind of the journey of Professor Xavier in the recent Logan film. Quite heartbreaking.

In the interests of transparency, I note that I have published stories by Stephanie Lai, but regardless of that, I loved her piece "The Fall of the Jade Sword" - it's very contained, but offers so much to unpack.

Possibly my very favourite story in the anthology was "Eggshells" by Ziggy Schutz. It is definitively young adult in feel and construction, and works just beautifully. Gorgeous characters and a gentle journey of a plot.

Honestly, though I have pulled out just a handful to mention by name, I really did like all the stories, and could go on to discuss each of them! If I have one complaint, it is that I came away from several stories wanting far more than I got! I would love to see novels come out of many of these stories (or at least a series of novellas, ala Tansy Rayner Robert's forays in her Cookie Cutter Superhero world), they were that well built and readable. As complaints go, it's a good one to have about an anthology, I reckon. Kudos to the editors on making a great selection of well rounded, thought-provoking set of stories.

empiepaps's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging dark emotional reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


suzannekm's review against another edition

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I often find short story anthologies uneven, but I was really pleased with this one. The stories are different and distinct but seem to share an overall tone and reflect well off each other.

missmonicaanne's review

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It's hard to fairly review an anthology as they're are so many different stories but the best thing I can say is that these stories were all unique! I loved almost all of them, only one or two which I didn't really enjoy as much. I liked the general theme of the whole anthology, I mean who doesn't give superheroes? Each author interpreted the term "superhero" differently so there was a diverse set of characters. The stories themselves and their specific themes were diverse as well. Some stories were poignant and soulful, some seemed to contain social commentary and some seemed purely for pleasure. Overall, this was a great collection and they did a great job curating it

vsbedford's review against another edition

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The collection is uneven, as per usual with anthologies, but swings a bit too far in the "meh" direction for me. There seems to be a literary subgenre that embraces vague and favors narrators who lack the ability to express themselves clearly; for me this engenders some very mediocre writing as it gives the writer an easy out. Can't figure out how to express a discontent from reality? Literally have your main character/narrator forget their name! It's that easy! This anthology indulges this writing tic far too much - a strong red pen and some pointed words would have benefited everyone involved enormously. All in all, the only story I can recommend is "Miss Liberty Gets a Haircut," which has been wisely placed as the first piece, and the rest are just okay.

I received an ecopy from the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

0_nightowl_0's review against another edition

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I haven’t read short stories since my teenage years and I must say I have been missing out.

What a great collection this was, we are introduced to a myriad of new superheroes, villains with a range of quirky powers. I especially loved the truth serum beard; this particular one had me laughing out loud. We follow these characters as they not only try to save or destroy the world but also their daily struggles of whether they should change their appearance, listen to their guilty conscience or if their body odour is really that noticeable.

If you’re looking to escape reality for a bit on your daily commute or when you have nothing better to do, you have 20 marvellous worlds to visit where superheroes and villains are the norm and a whole cast of unusual, but likeable characters to meet.

All in all a great read and I look forward to seeing more from all the authors featured in this book.

*I received this ARC from the publisher via LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

corar's review

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Behind the Mask is an anthology of 20 short stories about superheroes and/or supervillains. There are a variety of stories by authors that are both familiar to me and new to me. Besides the super powers, one thing all the stories had in common were that they were more about the superhero as a person rather than their exploits fighting crime. They were stories about people that happened to have super powers rather than stories that focused on those powers. I really liked all the stories in the collection, even the weaker stories were good. It has spurred me to look into other works by a number of the "new to me" authors. I received a copy of Behind the Mask as part of the Library Thing Early Reviewers Program in return for an honest review.

thoughtsonbooks's review

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In a nutshell: very well-crafted anthology with lots and lots of amazing, thought-provoking stories, both by established authors (Kelly Link and Seanan McGuire for example) as well as authors who are less well-known. I enjoyed this mix of different voices a whole lot.

I have been thinking about this review all morning and still do not know how to write it. I always find anthologies difficult to assess and to review - there are so many things happening and obviously some stories resonate more with me than others. Also, for me the stories tend to blend into each other and I cannot always remember each one enough to even have an opinion about it after finishing the whole collection. That said: this was a pretty brilliant anthology. Tricia Reeks and Kyle Richardson obviously put a lot of thought and love and work into collecting these stories and to fit them into a more or less coherent order.

As you can tell from the title, this is a collection of superhero stories focussing on the maybe less often talked about aspects of being a superhero. Interestingly, most stories focus on female superheroes (and some supervillains) and the specific problems they might face (work/life balance, sexism in the workplace, losing your identity etc) and I obviously loved that to pieces. I don't know if this was on purpose or if those just were the stories the authors wanted to tell, but I appreciate it nontheless.

Every author put their own spin on the superhero genre and mostly they greatly succeeded. I did appreciate the newer voices more than the stories by the more established authors. Some standouts for me were Nathan Crowder's "Madjack" - a wonderful homage to David Bowie; Kate Marshall's beautifully imagined and original "Destroy the City with Me Tonight" (with the absolute best ending of all the stories); Aimee Ogden's "As I Fall Asleep" - sad and poignant and very very great; Carrie Vaughn's playful spin on a romantic comedy "Origin Story" (even villains have meet cutes!); and my absolute favourite of the book: Chris Large's "Salt City Blue" - I loved loved loved this one and its beautifully flawed main character and I do not want to spoil it but you should read it.

I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and Meerkat Press in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for that!

therestricktedsection's review

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I was really looking forward to this anthology, especially because I’d heard so many good things about so many authors in the lineup, but unfortunately, it just ended up being extremely disappointing. Majority of the stories ended up being 2 or 2 and a half stars. Out of all 20 stories in the collection, only 3 were 4 stars or above.

I don’t expect to get along with every writing style in an anthology, it’s almost guaranteed that WON’T happen, but I didn’t like so many of the stories in this collection. Not only that but so many of the stories felt like they were just half of an idea and not a complete idea. I did really like Kate Marshall, Ziggy Schutz, and Adam R. Shannon’s stories and I’d recommend seeing if their stories are available anywhere by other than this collection. I’m grateful I at least got 3 new authors to check out because of this but overall, this was completely lackluster and kind of felt like a waste of my time.

1. ms liberty gets a haircut by cambo - ⭐️ ⭐️
2. destroy the city with me tonight by kate marshall - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
3. fool by keith frady - ⭐️
4. pedestal by seanen mcguire - ⭐️⭐️1/2
5. as i fall asleep by aimee ogden - ⭐️1/2
6. meeting someone in the 22nd century or until the gears quit turning by jennifer pullen - ⭐️1/2
7. inheritance by michael milne - ⭐️⭐️1/2
8. heroes by lavie tidhar - ⭐️⭐️
9. madjack by nathan crowder- ⭐️⭐️1/2
10. quintessential justice by patrick flanagan - ⭐️⭐️
11. the fall of the jade sword by stephanie lai - ⭐️⭐️⭐️
12. origin story by carrie vaughn - ⭐️⭐️1/2
13. eggshells by ziggy schutz - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
14. salt city blue by chris large - ⭐️1/2
15. birthright by stuart suffel - ⭐️
16. the smoke means it’s working by sarah pinsker - ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
17. torch songs by keith rosson - ⭐️⭐️
18. the beard of truth by matt mikalatos - ⭐️
19. over an embattled city by adam r shannon - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
20. origin story by kelly link - ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

overall avg rating = 2.45 / ⭐️⭐️1/2 stars

sheerpoetry's review

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(This review is for Seanan McGuire's "Pedestal.")

I really loved this one. I'm a huge fan of The Incredibles, so I really enjoy seeing what's "behind the mask." (Yes, the anthology is aptly named.) This story was perfectly crafted and paced and the little snippets of gossip/paparazzi talk were perfect as an opening and closing.

This story nicely addresses the topic of celebrity and access, which is an ever more important issue. It's done in a way that should easily click for most while still being entertaining.