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The stories in this book were the first Flandry adventures Poul Anderson wrote, beginning with "Tiger by the Tail" in 1951, 15 years before Ensign Flandry. Each is a free-standing story, and unlike most serial SF they don't require knowledge of the whole universe or series continuity. Additionally, the old Ace edition with the Whelan cover includes the intriguing essay "Lurex and Gold" by noted SF critic Sandra Miesel, the genre's Pauline Kael. Miesel's essays on Gordon R. Dickson's Childe Cycle novels also appended Ace's editions of those books, making these versions of the books pretty definitive and worth hunting down in used bookstores.

All props to the late, lamented ibooks for taking the reins and reissuing, however briefly, the Flandry books for a new generation of readers in the 21st century. In 2010, Baen Books included "Tiger by the Tail" and "Honorable Enemies" in their new collection Captain Flandry, Defender of the Terran Empire, which you can order if the sexist cover art (not in keeping with the stories, I might add; these tales aren't exactly sexually PC, but Flandry was not just some interstellar James Bond clone surrounded by mobs of naked bimbos) doesn't embarrass you too much.

TIGER BY THE TAIL
Flandry, here a captain, is abducted by the Scothians, an ambitious species that lives just outside the borders of the declining Terran Empire and hopes slowly to infiltrate and invade it, with knowledge gleaned from their captive. However, in their smugness and arrogance, they don't count on Flandry's wiles, and in no time the young officer is effortlessly pitting numerous Scothian factions against one another. Pure escapist fun, and more inventive than one might initially realize. A full decade later, Akira Kurosawa would use a very similar premise for his now-classic film Yojimbo.

THE WARRIORS FROM NOWHERE
Highly entertaining yarn in which Flandry sets out to rescue the Emperor's kidnapped granddaughter. Brisk and funny; hardcore feminists avoid.

HONORABLE ENEMIES
Top-drawer space opera and intrigue in which we meet Aycharaych, Flandry's nemesis in league with the Merseians. Both the Terran Empire and the Merseians are vying for the allegiance of the worlds surrounding Betelgeuse; Flandry discovers that Aycharaych is a telepath, instantly compromising any secret the suave Terran agent may possess. Clever twists to the tale, plus the delightfully old-fashioned depiction of respect between adversaries as indicated in the story's title (Flandry and Aycharaych wrap up the tale over drinks, shortly after trying to kill each other in a swordfight), are among the touches that give this story a timeless appeal. If Ronald Colman were alive today...

HUNTERS OF THE SKY CAVE
Nearly a novel in its own right, this fast-paced tale has the appeal of the early Sean Connery Bond films — which means kick up your heels, prepare for some cartoonish fun, and leave all political correctness at the door. A previously unencountered alien race has invaded the distant colonial world of Vixen, with possible assistance from a race who have up to now been completely neutral in the endless human/Merseian conflicts. Flandry is sent to Vixen to investigate in the company of the sole survivor of the first attack, who is, naturally, a young woman. Clever, unpredictable plotting enhances this tale of espionage and warfare, with Aycharaych coming into his own as an arch-villain of the first water.