If you wanted the real lowdown about Imperial Britannia, odds are you wouldn't ask Tom Brown. He'd be nowhere near the action anyway. It takes an opportunist like Flashman to manage to make all the scenes -- Balaclava -- and to wind up in the thick of them cursing fate, which of course always spares her darlings. His view is personal to a fault, and he does let the worms out, but there's also that uncorrupted candor that often goes with deliberate lying. Fraser has a lot of fun flying the bloated corpses (Albert, Raglan, Cardigan) in these continuing ""Flashman Papers,"" and the career he invents for his hero is too marvelous by itself, even if you're not quite sure what the Light Brigade was charging. Flashman is as mobile as Sinbad, even becoming a captive of Turks. What's interesting is the moral conscience that creeps in (not that Flashy's gone soft --) and the quality of an existential commentary. It's all presented and documented like real papers, but surprisingly passionate for being so clever. Good job.