Among the many short stories penned by award-winning author Poul Anderson (1926-2001) are a series of stories about Steven Matuchek (a werewolf), and Virginia Graylock (a witch), who inhabit an Earth where magic is studied and employed just like any other technology. In 1971, these four short stories were combined into one book – Operation Chaos.
In Operation Afreet (first published in 1956), Steven and Virginia meet during the great war against the Saracen Caliphate, when they are sent on a commando operation to stop the enemy’s use of a powerful monster.
In Operation Salamander (1957), Steven and Virginia must team up to stop a rampaging fire creature, before it can burn down the whole town.
Operation Incubus (1959) pits newlyweds Steven and Virginia against a demon that is determined to put a stop to them...permanently.
And finally, in Operation Changeling (1969), when Steven and Virginia return home after foiling the machinations of an evil new political movement, they find Virginia’s familiar nearly killed and their child exchanged for a simulacrum. It seems that a demon has stolen their daughter, and if they want it back they must be prepared to storm the gates of Hell itself!
Overall, I found these to be well-written and very entertaining stories. Indeed, the absolute crown jewel of the book is the final story. Written in the 1960s (which Mr. Anderson described as “that low dishonest decade”), the opposing “Johannine Church” is filled with “long-haired men and short-haired women, bathless bodies and raggedy clothes” carrying signs about peace, love and harmony, and bringing only chaos, hatred and violence. And worse, these simple souls on the frontlines don’t even realize that they are foot soldiers for the forces of evil. The social commentary is absolutely delicious!
So, if you want to read some superior science fiction/fantasy written by one of the giants of the industry, then get this book. Indeed, I must say that this is one of the best works of fiction that I have read all year, and I hereby proclaim it my pick of the year!