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Start with chapter 44. Read until you finish chapter 48.
This will take you through all of the original short stories and give you the background you need before you read the novella.
Once you've finished the short stories, you're ready to start at chapter 1. Once you've read up through 43, then you can read chapter 49, the end notes.
As for the stories themselves, these are ridiculous escapist science fantasy. I personally like the short stories better than the novella, but it was nice to return to his universe :-)