Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Operation Luna is Poul Anderson's sequel to his book Operation Chaos, set in a world in which magic has overtaken science in the twentieth century. While the first novel dealt with Steven and Ginny Matuchek's courtship and marriage in the years following the American-Caliphate War (equal to our World War II), Operation Luna picks up the action ten years later with the Matuchecks involved with Operation Selene, the government attempt to use high-powered magic to reach the Moon, and Operation Luna, a private company which has been established to exploit the resources of space.
Anderson continues to build on his successful world of combined magic and science from the earlier novel, sprinkling the action liberally with humor and puns. His humor hangs on a strong story-line and good characterization, although Anderson's formal, stilted dialogue does tend to add some distance between the characters, even those as close as the Matucheks and their children. What becomes apparent in Anderson's use of language, however, is how much speech is influence by cultural changes. In Anderson's world in which magic is so prevalent, it has formalized the manner in which people address each other.
While Anderson's style is not always the easiest to read, it does add a certain epic feel to the adventures of the Matucheks and helps to distance what they are going through from the real space race upon which the basic idea of the novel is taken. It also serves as a constant reminder that for all the world in which Ginny and Steven live is not the world in which we live, despite the similarities.
Even as the Matucheks work with the government to attempt to reach the Moon, which Ginny Matuchek's brother, Will Greylock, has proven to be inhabited by Beings, they both maintain a staunchly Libertarian, almost anti-government, attitude. This was demonstrated in the earlier novel, although not quite as strongly as it is in Operation Luna. Anderson highlights it with an oblique reference to Robert Heinlein as the Matucheks' troubles with the government begin in earnest.
Unfortunately, the novel's pace is entirely wrong. While the plot is that of an action mystery, the pace is more philosophical in nature and moves along quite slowly. Anderson spends too much time detailing the minutiae of everyday family life for the Matucheks when he would be better served by moving his story forward. Given the number of puns and in-jokes which Anderson includes, the reader would further expect the story to move a little more rapidly towards its conclusion.
Operation Luna does not quite live up to the deserved reputation of Operation Chaos. While it has the same general feel of the earlier novel, it doesn't fully maintain the reader's interest, perhaps because Operation Chaos was a series of four shorter works which were linked together, while Operation Luna is a single, much longer work which should have retained the short format of Anderson's earlier tales in the sequence.
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