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Operation Luna    by Poul Anderson order for
Operation Luna
by Poul Anderson
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2000 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I was surprised and delighted to find a sequel to Operation Chaos, after such a long interval. Anderson has set these stories in an alternate world whose magical Beings went into hibernation at the time of the Industrial Revolution. Subsequent advances in science triggered an Awakening that released them. In the previous title, Steve and Ginny, a werewolf and practicing witch, went up against a powerful demon and rescued their baby daughter Valeria from Hell.

In the interval the Matuchek's have outlived their notoriety and settled down as a typical suburban American family, raising three children in Arizona. He works as an engineer for the National Astral Spellcraft Administration (NASA), and she has her own consultancy business which has led to contacts and friendship with the American Indian community and its Zuni holy men. As the story starts, NASA attempts a critical launch of the bronze horse intended to take humans to the moon. It is sabotaged and only Steve's quick intervention saves its rider.

It looks like Coyote the Trickster did the deed with help from Chinese black magic (instigated by a villain called Dr. Fu) and a local agent. The FBI move in and select as chief suspect Ginny's beloved older brother Will. That, and their own passion for the space program, push the Matuchek's to investigate. They track down Dr. Fu in England and acquire a garrulous sword and the help of its dwarf maker along the way. Then they launch their own lunatic venture by broomstick spacecraft ... and Valeria gets involved this time too.

Anderson makes this series work by treating his magical world as perfectly mundane. In fact he has some fun by having his characters speculate on how the world would have evolved if the Awakening had not happened ... into something, the Powers forbid, like our own. However he also dwells over long on details of daily life, which makes the story ponderous in the middle.

Operation Chaos was a great read with a unique take on a world where magic is mundane. Anyone who enjoyed it will appreciate revisiting that world in Operation Luna and be amused by Anderson's digs at some of our own institutions like NASA and the IRS ... don't be surprised if they have you howling at the moon at the end along with Steve!

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