When the office door opened suddenly I knew the game was up.
–Harry Harrison - The Stainless Steel Rat - c.1961, 1988
- The stainless steel rat
- The stainless steel rat’s revenge
- The stainless steel rat saves the world
Read for The Sci Fi Experience 2011
When I spotted this in Chapters bookshop I knew I had to buy it, if only because it is the inspiration for Carl’s blog. Plus, you know, it is one of those sci-fi adventures that you really should have at least flicked through at some stage.
Slippery Jim is our narrator, and our hero, of sorts. He is also the Stainless Steel Rat, or at least that is how he describes himself. Slipping through the technological world and committing many daring acts of thievery and innumerable cons. Safe and secure in the knowledges that his wits, charm and logic will get him out of danger. Until, that is, he is caught. The Special Corps, so special that no one is really sure they exist until, of course, they catch you, succeed in arresting him. But instead of throwing him in jail, or punishing him they offer him a job. Come and work for them. So he does, after all, he was never a bad man, just one who wanted his bit of freedom.
For the most part I really enjoyed Jim and his adventures. They are good old-fashioned fun, with plenty of action and derring-do. Plus Jim is an amusing narrator. He never takes himself too seriously, and frequently gets it wrong. Although he does, of course, always sort the problem in the end. he is the hero after all.
What I did have a huge problem with was the depiction of women in this book. And I kept trying to tell myself that it was written in a different time, so of course he Harrison wouldn’t have modern sensibilities, especially in the first of the books, which was written in 1961, but still. It rankled, each and every time I saw a mention of how her very females-ness had conspired to hold Angelina back, or twist her. And in the 2nd book we had the “girls” army, which although it was very capable, Jim was mainly concerned with how pretty the soldiers were. Some one tell me all men aren’t that shallow!
But if I ignore those anachronisms :) and move on to the story itself I can’t find much to complain over. They are quick fun reads, entertainment in a hundred or so pages. The blurb on my copy compared the Stainless Steel Rat to Terry Pratchett, I can’t agree with that. Pratchett writes in a very different style, and in his later books has so much going on, the Stainless Steel Rat books don’t seem to have that level of satire to them. But they are still worth the read.
If you’ve reviewed this let me know and I’ll add a link. ISBN: 9780575081710