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'The Stainless Steel Rat' by Harry Harrison

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The Stainless Steel Rat series is a series of science fiction books with an element of comedy, written by Harry Harrison. The books relate the adventures of Slippery Jim diGriz, interplanetary con-man and thief. With his unique philosophy of life, he tackles the predicaments of the Galactic League: invasions, tyrannical governments, and insane megalomaniac scientists.

Harry Harrison also wrote (among other titles):

  • West of Eden
  • Make Room, Make Room!
  • Bill, the Galactic Hero
  • Deathworld trilogy

The Books

These are all novels, apart from The Golden Years of the Stainless Steel Rat, which appeared in Stainless Steel Visions, a collection of short stories by Harry Harrison.

There is also an interactive game book, You can be the Stainless Steel Rat, copyright 1985.

The Stainless Steel Rat (1961)

James Bolivar diGriz (aka 'The Stainless Steel Rat', 'Slippery Jim diGriz'), master interplanetary con-man and thief, is captured by Harold Inskipp, the leader of the Special Corps. The Corps is a branch of the Galactic League that handles all the problems that the planets are unable to handle themselves. Inskipp, who is himself an ex-criminal, recruits diGriz into the Corps, in order to put his talents to good use.

DiGriz discovers that someone is building a huge battleship, of a type not seen for a thousand years. He sets out to discover who is building such a ship, and why.

Comments

The book is an extension of a three-chapter short story, of the same name, published earlier. The short story is, in turn, an extension of a one-paragraph 'narrative book' that Harrison extended because he wanted 'to find out what happened next'. (Stainless Steel Visions, 1993)

The back cover blurb of the Sphere edition says 'He can take any bank in the Galaxy, con a captain out of his ship, start a war or stop one - whichever pays the most'. Mostly true - except that this shows a misunderstanding of diGriz's character. He is neither homicidal nor amoral. He loves stealing money from large organisations (eg banks and governments), but he would neither start a war, nor kill someone to get to his loot.

The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge (1970)

The inhabitants of Cliaand have successfully invaded several League planets, even though interstellar war has previously been considered impossible. The League decides that the Special Corps must send an agent to Cliaand to find out how and why they are achieving this feat, and to stop them from advancing any further.

Comments

In this book, we get our first taste of diGriz in a brutal military setting - a background that reappears later in the series.

The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World (1972)

People are disappearing. Literally. When diGriz's wife Angelina is the next victim, it is discovered that someone is tampering with the past. diGriz travels back into the distant past, to a long forgotten planet called 'Earth', or 'Dirt', or something like that.

Comments

We get to see diGriz in a familiar setting (to us), grappling with the technological nightmare of automobiles and televisions.

The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You (1978)

Humans are being attacked by an enormous number of slimy green-tentacled alien races, determined to wipe out the 'repulsive' human species. diGriz has to stop the attack, and save the human race.

Comments

This is the first time that we meet any genuine aliens (ie non-humans). It's also the first time that we see James and Bolivar (diGriz's twin sons) in action.

The Stainless Steel Rat For President (1982)

Paraiso-Aqui is a beautiful paradise planet - or so it would appear. The tyrannical ruler, General Julio Zapilote, has been running the planet for a very long time, rigging one election after another while maintaining the pretence of democracy. diGriz is sent in to see that Zapilote will not win the next election.

Comments

Zapilote is a superb dictator, and diGriz's methods of usurping him are most fascinating. There's a lot of interesting political discussion in this book, which is only mildly masked by the humour.

A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born (1985)

Young Jim diGriz is determined to become a master criminal. He's done very well by himself so far, but he needs to learn more professional techniques from the experts. So he deliberately bungles an armed robbery, with the intention of getting sent to prison where he can meet the real criminals.

Comments

Harrison has jumped back in time to diGriz's early years. This sets the scene for The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted and The Stainless Steel Rat Sings The Blues. Great fun, though readers do miss the lovely - and dangerous - Angelina.

The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted (1987)

With thoughts of revenge on his mind, diGriz manages to get drafted into General Zennor's army. When Zennor launches an attack on a defenseless planet, the Rat is the only person left who can stop him.

Comments

This story includes a fascinating description of a peaceful society, and its underlying philosophy: Individual Mutuality. Funnily enough, this story bears a striking resemblance to The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk.

The Golden Years Of The Stainless Steel Rat (1993)

Jim diGriz is an old man - he has been captured at last, and (in his failing medical condition) has been sent to a special prison for those criminals who are near death. However, the Rat isn't as rusty as he appears, and his capture was not an accident.

Comments

The beginning of this story is slightly worrying because the Rat was in a decrepit, smelly state. Very glad that he hadn't really lost 'the edge' over the years.

The Stainless Steel Rat Sings The Blues (1994)

When diGriz is sentenced to death for robbing the Mint on Pask├Ânjak, he is offered a special deal instead - travel to Liokukae, and retrieve an important missing artefact. However, Liokukae is a dumping-ground planet for all those criminals that the League can't store anywhere else. The Rat creates the perfect cover: a rock band that will play to the weird communities on Liokukae.

Comments

This story includes a description of an amazing society. The Rat is not happy with what he sees, and sets out to reform the culture.

The Stainless Steel Rat Goes To Hell (1996)

Angelina has gone missing. Jim and his boys discover that a Professor has developed a machine that acts as a portal to other universes - worlds with strange properties and physical laws. diGriz goes on the hunt for his wife, and sets out to discover - and put an end to - the Professor's plan.

Comments

This book brings together many threads from previous stories.


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