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John Joseph Adams

Thanks to classics like Starship Troopers and The Forever War, and the current popularity of mega-properties such as the Halo video game franchise and the Iron Man films, power armor has become a concept everyone is familiar with. But for me, it all began with John Steakley’s 1984 novel Armor.

Ever since reading Armor (and, soon after, Starship Troopers and tons of Iron Man comics), stories about soldiers going to battle in personal, powered combat armor has always appealed to me. When I first turned my hand to creative pursuits, the first thing I ever attempted to write—at around age eighteen or so—was a novel about a power-armored soldier, so in many ways I’ve been working toward this anthology my entire career.

Like me, many readers and gamers have long been fascinated by this concept. Yet there has never been an anthology devoted to this coolest of science fiction concepts—until now.

The stories in this anthology demonstrate the range of what can be done with the idea, exploring everything from the near-future powered exoskeleton technologies we might be seeing just a few years from now, to the powered combat armors and giant bipedal mechs of the far future.

Most of the stories included here are the kind of futuristic military SF stories you would expect to find in an anthology on this topic—“Hel’s Half-Acre” by Jack Campbell, “The Johnson Maneuver” by Ian Douglas, “Contained Vacuum” by David Sherman, “You Do What You Do” by Tanya Huff, to name a few—and those stories naturally have all the requisite cool tech and ass-kicking you’ve all come to expect from books with the Baen logo on the spine.

Although most of the stories included do take place in the far future on strange alien worlds, some take place closer to home; “Jungle Walkers” by David Klecha and Tobias S. Buckell, for instance, takes place here on Earth in the not-too-distant future, and Michael A. Stackpole’s “Field Test” is the most contemporary—taking place in Libya during the revolution of 2011.

Some of the stories take place even further in the past; in David D. Levine’s “The Last Days of the Kelly Gang,” we get a glimpse of what those infamous 19th century outlaws might have attempted had they had a little more technology on their side. And in Carrie Vaughn’s “Don Quixote,” she imagines what might have happened had mecha technology been pioneered during the Spanish Civil War.

Other unusual takes on the theme include Genevieve Valentine’s tale of deep-sea scavengers on a distant alien world, “The Last Run of the Coppelia,” and David Barr Kirtley’s “Power Armor: A Love Story,” about a Tony Stark-like figure who never takes off his invincible armor for fear of a lurking assassin. John Jackson Miller’s tale “Human Error,” meanwhile, takes a humorous look at what might happen if you’re trapped out on the edge of the final frontier and the armor you ordered from HQ isn’t quite what you expected. And in “Nomad” by Karin Lowachee and “Transfer of Ownership” by Christie Yant, the armor itself is in the role of protagonist, and the authors tell us their stories, instead of those of their occupants.

There’s all that and more—a total of twenty-three different takes on what it means to be on the front lines of the future of warfare, on what it means to be part of a unique symbiosis of man and machine, on what it means to be…armored.

I made it my mission as an anthology editor to put together the kinds of books that I would like to read. And this book, perhaps more than any I’ve done thus far, exemplifies that. So suit up, power on, and lock and load—your mission begins on the next page.

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