The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In Operation Chaos, Poul Anderson links four short stories previously published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction into a novel. In order of publication, the stories are “Operation Afreet” (September, 1956), “Operation Salamander” (January, 1957), “Operation Incubus” (October, 1959), and “Operation Changeling” (May-June, 1969). Anderson added brief transitional sections that provide a larger context to link the stories. In this larger context, the main characters, Steven Matuchek and Virginia Graylock, are subjected to the long-term enmity of the Adversary. Each of their adventures results from the Adversary’s efforts to destroy them. Matuchek, who narrates the book, addresses his stories to possible audiences in parallel worlds, hoping to inform them about the “war between Law and Chaos.”

In Operation Chaos, magic and science combine with technology in what Matuchek calls the goetic age. The magic in Operation Chaos draws eclectically on a wide range of myth and folklore, including European, Native American, Near Eastern, and Asian elements. Magic works because in the early twentieth century someone discovered how to “degauss” cold iron. This process removes the traditional barrier to magic, allowing the development of any number of magical devices. For example, individual transportation is by broomstick or magic carpet rather than by automobile or airplane. Magic replaces...

(The entire section is 438 words.)