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Operation Chaos (1971)
de Poul Anderson
No hi ha cap discussió a Converses sobre aquesta obra.
No plot is intriguing enough to deal with patronizing misogyny in every other paragraph. Seriously, constantly questioning the capability of a woman WITH THE SAME MILITARY RANK AS YOU just because she's a woman? Referring to her as "girl" and "the woman"? Immediately judging only her based on her looks when introducing all the characters (the others male) in the room? Disgusting. Couldn't even get past chapter 2. ( )
Anderson, Poul. Operation Chaos. Doubleday, 1971.
In an introduction, Poul Anderson says he intended Operation Chaos as an homage to Robert Heinlein’s stories that combine science and engineering with magic. To that end, he named his heroine Virginia, after Heinlein’s wife. Indeed, his husband and wife team of a werewolf and a white witch would be right at home in Heinlein’s Magic, Inc. We are in an alternate America where magic works, and your morning commute is likely to be on broomstick or magic carpet; but to guide you on a journey through Hell, you will need to summon the ghost of a non-Euclidean mathematician. The novel was cobbled together from a handful of stories going back to the mid-1950s. I suspect that explains why we have an alternate second world war rather than an alternate Vietnam. It also accounts for the episodic nature of the plot, as our characters take on one dangerous mission after the other. The mishmash is entertaining, but not Anderson’s best. 3.5 stars.
Spoiler Warning. This is in effect a series of four loosely linked stories about a werewolf, Steve Matuchek, and a witch, Virginia Graylock (later Steve's wife) living in a world which is roughly equivalent to modern (20th century) technology, but with much of the "technology" provided by magic. This type of world has become more common lately, but originally it was rare when most fantasy was set (as much still is) in ancient/medieval technological worlds. It was pioneered by Robert Heinlein in Magic Inc., ( a story I like very much) which Anderson recognizes by dedicating the book to Heinlein "who first incorporated magic" The first story is set in roughly the equivalent of World War 2, but waged against a Saracen Caliphate (a much more unlikely prophetic idea in 1971 than it is now) based on a heretical form of Islam (Anderson emphasizes that orthodox Muslims are also fighting the Caliphate). The Caliphate had earlier overrun much of the western US(and, offstage, Europe), but is now being pushed back, --an offensive is about to move against the occupation of Washington State/Oregon, but the Caliphate forces have an efreet. Steve and Virginia are sent to deal with it -- Virginia deals with the efreet by applied psychology (rather like some episodes in the Harold Shea stories) while Steve guards her from the rest of the caliphal forces,notably a weretiger. They survive (narrowly in Steve's case) while also falling in love. The second story is rather feeble college humor -- Steve and Virginia are going to Trisgeistus U. on the equivalent of the GI bill, but are kept apart by the fussy college president's geas against romance between undergrads (Steve) and grad students (Virginia). However, a fire elemental (being used in cheer-leading stunt) gets lose, Steve and Virginia (with the aid of the underfunded professor of conventional physics, a neglected field given the prestige of magic) manage to suppress the elemental with more of Virginia's psychology and win freedom from the romance geas (and funding for physics). The next story has a very different tone -- Steve and Virginia are on their honeymoon in Mexico and are tempted by an incubus/succubus from a Spanish ruin. It looks for a moment as if they really will submit to its wiles, which I find improbable despite some careful justifications. All these stories lead up to the final one, the actual "Operation Chaos." There have been some (rather awkwardly inserted) flashes linking the the earlier stories in which Steve has had brief encounters with the Devil, suggesting the Devil wants to eliminate them before they interfere with his Big Plan. This Plan turns out to be the Church of St. John, a rather carefully worked out neo-gnostic church which is sponsoring a peacenik movement --there does not seem to be an equivalent of the Vietnam War on, but the "Johnnies" are protesting companies that produce military and police equipment, including Nornwell, the company where Steve works.When the protesters disrupt the Nornwell, the Matucheks and others there succeed in drenching the protesters with foul-smelling chemicals. In revenge, a Johnny cleric (not evil but misguided) curses them, and a devil carries of their baby Valeria Victrix to Hell. Hell is visualized as being in a non-Euclidean dimension (or group of dimensions) so Steve and Virginia go there with the aid of Lobachevsky (now a saint) and Bolyai (now in purgatory) two pioneers of that kind of math. Hell itself is very vividly described --not just flames but a mix of frozen plains, frozen swamps, lava fields, and a city of grotesquely distorted architecture (apparently a regional capital) where the minor devil who took Valeria is bringing her (infernal time being independent of that of Steve's world, the invaders are able to arrive before the devil actually gets back with the child, but as before Steve has to hold off a horde of devils (commanded by a demonic Hitler with whom he briefly parleys)with Virginia does her magic. They get back safely with the child and the captured devil, whose testimony brings down the Johnny church, though a reformed remnant survives. Bolyai (who traveled and fought in the body of Virginia's witch familiar the black cat Svartalf) wins admission to heaven. Most of this book I enjoyed, the first story most. I disliked the idea of peaceniks as puppets of the devil, even though I was not against the Vietnam War myself. However, once the episode of the protest at Nornwell is over, the depiction pf the mission to hell is very vivid. My impression is that Anderson himself was not a believer, though respectful of most religions, so I find it a little strange that he chose this religious theme (instead of, say, aliens or non-diabolic fantasy creatures as the puppet masters). The effect is rather like some of the self-consciously evangelical Christian fantasy now being written, though I do not think Anderson intended it that way..
An interesting story - several, really. The one in the blurb, with the two of them as soldiers fighting a 'demon' - though it turns out to be pretty much small fry. The in-between parts, with the elemental and the other demon - again, although they're in danger several times, it never really hits home as serious. The salamander could have killed them, but failed - and it threatened no worse than simple destruction even if it got entirely loose. Then the exciting part, strongly foreshadowed but without even a hint of the form the matter would take. Real risks, to them and others; long-term and short-term danger; and an unlikely desperation side-trip that turns out to supply, in an odd sideways fashion, exactly what was needed to solve the real problem. Hard to talk about any of this without utterly spoiling it! Lobachevski and Bolyai are fascinating. Their adventures in 'the hell dimension' are truly weird. And the eventual solution is strange and marvelous. Why no one from the East, though? Odd. And a happy ending - though I assume he meant to write the second book then (it took years to get publshed, though), to explain what the whole point was. Now I need to read Operation Luna... A few spots where Poul gets into politics, with rants that are very of-the-time, but mostly the infodumps are either unobtrusive or sufficiently lampshaded as to be acceptable. This was actually originally published as four short stories in F&SF over 13 years - the joins show, but it hangs together pretty well.
Read a book I loved many years ago; still enjoyed it!
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In a war waged against Black Magic, the fact that Steve is a werewolf and his wife is a highly-skilled witch is not unusual. But their adventures prove very unusual, even for their world, when they are given the task of neutralizing an enemy's ultimate weapon--the world's most powerful demon.
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Classificació Decimal de Dewey (DDC)813.54 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
LCC (Clas. Bibl. Congrés EUA)
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