is an Alternate History Magitek
novel by Poul Anderson
. It takes place in a world where technology never advanced past a primitive combustion engine, so instead magic takes its place in all things in an otherwise modern (for the time the book was written) setting. Cars and trucks are replaced by flying brooms and carpets, crystal balls act as televisions, radios, and telephones, were-creatures use flashbulbs created by the Polaroid corporation to transform at any time instead of just by the light of the moon, and Ivy League colleges have courses in witchcraft.
The narrator (a werewolf
) recounts a series of tales (originally four separate short stories) involving various paranormal adventures, from World War II
(which took place against an Arab Caliphate that invaded the United States) through the Sixties, culminating in one that links them all together.
There is a sequel, Operation Luna
, concerning the alternate history's first manned expedition to the moon. A character from this series also makes a cameo in Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest
, in the chapters set in the Inn Between The Worlds
Tropes found in this work
- All Myths Are True
- All Witches Have Cats: Virginia has a cat named Svartalf as a familiar.
- Awesome, but Impractical: War Basilisks. As our hero Steven points out, they're really more trouble than they're worth.
- Badass Longcoat: Steven has one.
- Beast of Battle: Steven is one.
- Big Damn Heroes: The Old Gods who come to the heroes' aid in Hell.
- Children Are Innocent
- Creepy Cathedral
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Virginia, Steven's partner in WW 2 and eventual wife.
- Demon Lords and Archdevils: One of whom is Hitler!
- Elemental Embodiment
- Evil Eye
- Flying Broomstick: A common mode of transport (approximately equivalent to cars, or maybe motorcycles)
- Genie in a Bottle: Literally in the World War II chapter, figuratively in the college chapter.
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: Steven and Virginia.
- Got Volunteered: In World War II, all US soldiers were enchanted to be fearless and obey orders.
- Heel Face Turn: Those members of the Johannine Church who were there for sincere reasons take control of their faith after the leadership's demonic corruption is rooted out and turn it into a rather more noble faith.
- Horny Devils: An Incubus and a Succubus, who turn out to be the same being.
- Hot Witch: Ginny
- Language of Magic
- The Legions of Hell
- Magical Incantation: Magic is more potent if and incantation is spoke in a language foreign to the caster. Although a real language is preferable, Pig Latin will work in a pinch.
- Magic Carpet: Used as vans and trucks, when a broomstick is just too small.
- Magic Pants: Steven has a near-literal example in a specially-designed combat suit that stretches with him when he transforms. Subverted in a scene in which he transforms while wearing normal civilian clothes and is completely naked when he changes back. Luckily, Ginny is there to lend him her coat, which is barely big enough to cover his... ahem... attributes.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: A male wizard in a unicorn-using cavalry unit hastily points out that he's a liaison officer who travels by flying broomstick (since riding a unicorn would imply that he's a virgin).
- Non-Human Sidekick: Svartalf the cat.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Not Latin, but the Creepy Cathedral of the sinister Cult (which is really a Religion of Evil in disguise) is pervaded by ominous chanting of Barbarous Names (from an obscure pseudepigraphical book.)
- Our Genies Are Different
- Our Werewolves Are Different: It's a recessive gene, not a curse, and can't be transmitted by biting. They transform fully into an animal, with no intermediate forms.
- Were-creatures keep the personality and memories of their human selves, but have the instincts and approximate intelligence level of the animal. (Or, as Steven himself puts it: "...as a wolf I'm a rather stupid man.") They're trained from birth to hold on to their human selves while in animal form.
- Physically, they're difficult to injure because of near-instantaneous regeneration, though lost limbs or tails can't be regrown and they have the traditional silver weakness ("biochemical poison").
- The transformation conserves mass, so our hero is either a 180-pound man or a 180-pound wolf.
- Public Domain Artifact: The seal of Solomon
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits
- Shapeshifter Baggage: Partially averted. It's explicitly stated that were-creatures have the same mass in both forms, but transformation spells play it straight.
- Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Virginia, Steven's Love Interest and co-protagonist.
- Smoking Is Cool
- Taken for Granite
- To Hell and Back: Literally.
- Virgin Power
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: In many different flavours of were, activated via a special flashbulb.
- Weather Dissonance
- Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb