A disappointingly superficial ""pre-quel"" to the Niven-Pournelle success, The Mote in God's Eye. Here the future-history focus is on Prince Samual's World--a down-at-heels planet that's been contacted by the CoDominium Imperial Navy from the outer galaxies. The World is about to be made a slave state, mainly because it has fallen into a technological Dark Ages. But working to save his World from this fate is Colonel Nathan ""Iron Pants"" MacKinnie--who is persuaded by his world's King David to disguise himself as a trader and go to the planet Makassar, where he might be able to steal the knowledge for building a spaceship: if King David's people build a spaceship, then their World will not enter the CoDomiium as a slave state but rather as a classified world. So MacKinnie arrives with his special crew on the planet of Makassar--having been transported there by the Imperial Navy with a load of primitive weapons, armor, gold and platinum, liquor, spices, trinkets--and he finds himself involved in wars there that require his expertise in battle training based on Roman Legion tactics. He also falls in love with his secretary Mary Graham, a liberated ""freelady."" Does Prince Samual's World build its ship and get status? Yes, it does, and MacKinnie and Mary also get exiled: to their pleasing planet Makassar (its tech level is very low), where they will be big fish indeed. Space opera with a dab of civilization-conscious theme-weaving, but the comic-strip characters and blastoff action make it mostly a for-kids-only item.