I read this book about 20-Nov-2002. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1971. This note was last modified Friday, 02-May-2014 22:49:50 PDT.
This is book 1 of the "Operation Chaos" series.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
A real classic. One of the early "magic as science" stories, before D&D made that the norm. Only much better done than the recent stuff. It acknowledges Heinlein's "Magic, Incorporated" in the dedication.
I've had the sequel sitting around for a while, but when I finally got to it I decided I should reread the original first. And found my copy missing from the library. I eventually obtained a replacement (thanks Patrick), and am now to the point of reading it. Whee!
This edition has a relatively high level of copy-editing errors. I don't have any earlier edition around to compare to.
Overall I've never found that the world completely holds together, but I very much like all the little insights into how things are different with goetics. I keep noting wrong details, though; like sealing something with a cross and a star of David, but no other symbols. Given the war with the Caliphate, there's clearly Muslim magic too. And they make use of all sorts of pagan beliefs, too. So this is merely using the traditional "Judeo-Christian" stamp of approval.
In the final adventure, they find Hitler as a demon in hell—but their world never had the Nazis, so they don't know who he is. That's rather fun.
And in the final adventure, he manages to work into the next-to-last chapter the line "And this is how it happened that, although Bolyai led our expedition, Lobachevsky published first." This almost has to be a reference to the Tom Lehrer song (entirely possible given the copyright date); the real Lobachevsky wasn't known for plagiarizing, whereas "publishing first" is very much the goal of the one in the song.