Friday, 7 June 2013
The second Young Flandry novel, A Circus Of Hells, adds several layers to Flandry's character:
now training for Intelligence work, he learns surveillance on some routine solo scouting missions;
he learns from several mistakes - check everything, let your enemy underestimate you, don't let them know how much you know but also conceal your ignorance;
accepting a large bribe enables him to advance his career - nest-feathering, special equipment, social contacts, unbudgeted pleasures;
helping to enrich a local gang boss ensures that that boss will pressure the Empire not to abandon Irumclaw - thus, Flandry combines personal advancement with defending the Empire;
he spends a lot more time in the company of Merseians, thus improving his Eriau and increasing his knowledge of the enemy;
he is instrumental in founding the joint Terran-Merseian scientific base on Talwin - or, to re-express this in political terms, he ensures that Talwin is of no further use as an advance base for Merseian Intelligence but instead becomes a discrete site for confidential inter-imperium talks, including later an interesting conversation between Flandry himself and his opposite number, Aycharaych;
he demonstrates to the reader, and possibly even to himself, that he does not understand women;
he is placed under a geas that he will never get the woman he really wants - this will have catastrophic personal repercussions in the following novel, The Rebel Worlds, and again later in A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows.
And there is much more in the novel about the other characters, Irumclaw, Wayland, Talwin, the Empire and the Merseians. Poul Anderson conveyed a lot of condensed information in many short novels and also wrote several longer ones.