The Stainless Steel Rat

The Stainless Steel Rat

by Harry Harrison

In the vastness of space, the crimes just get bigger and Slippery Jim diGriz, the Stain Steel Rat, is the biggest criminal of them all. He can con humans, aliens and any number of robots time after time. Jim is so slippery that all the inter-galactic cops can do is make him one of their own

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To understand the unique brilliance and enduring popularity of the Stainless Steel Rat, its important to understand the world in which these stories take place. Shattering the status quo is James Bolivar DiGriz (aka The Stainless Steel Rat) and his roguish, adventure-filled criminal schemes. As DiGriz himself explains early on in the novel: My life is so different from that of the overwhelming majority of people in our society...They exist in a fat, rich union of worlds that have almost forgotten the meaning of the word crime. Now that society is all ferroconcrete and stainless steel there are fewer gaps between the joints and it takes a smart rat to find them. A stainless steel rat is right at home in this environment.

Pulp sci-fi written in 1961 and reprinted dozens of times. The main points of interest for me were how poor a prediction of future technology it was, and how badly sci-fi was written 55 years ago. The Stainless Steel universe has the 'standard' many-times-faster-than-light travel, instant communication (via psychic telephone men this time), and highly intelligent robots. Given that the sci-fi 'failings' were pretty common to most (all?) of the sci-fi around at the time I guess the strong voice accounts for the books' popularity. Fortunately it's a very short book, perhaps only 50,000 words or so.

Lets give it up for the librarians, shall we, the ones who track down my ridiculous requests for books published before I was (figuratively, of course, my dears). ************* Because I'm likely to digress even further (so off-topic!!), you can find the entire review at:

Right up front, I'm going to tell you that this is a book that is about to suffer for being judged out of time. As soon as the "secretary" was mentioned, and it was - of course - assumed that she must be working for a male who was pulling all the strings, I knew that this book and I were going to have issues. Because, as forward-thinking as Harrison no doubt thought himself (or so it seems to me, knowing nothing about him at all other than having read this one book) for casting a woman as the antagonist, and making her smart, and independent, he ruined all of that when he THEN made her psychotic about her looks - and actually had the main male character say something to the effect of "I had wondered how someone so beautiful became so smart" and "she was cursed by ugliness".

(The book, not the reviewer.) (Although I'm regularly informed of my innate inferiority of character due to sexism.) It was a modest amount of fun reading it because I like capers.

Just what the doctor ordered after finishing the mammoth tome that is A Game of Thrones.

While this didn't age as well as one would hope, and may get knocked down by fans of more contemporary science fiction on that account, I enjoy occasionally looking back in time and reading influential genre works, as they give a glimpse into how the genre was built and evolved into what it now is.

This was a nice blast from the past, a fast moving space opera with a wonderful main character, Slippery Jim DiGriz. There is a lot of action & DiGriz is always ready with a snappy word, but he's a young steel rat in this one which makes him more 'real' & likable than he is in some of the later books.

To save my own sanity, I chose nothing." In the future society where Jim diGriz lives, most criminal and anti-social behavior has been weeded out of the human genome. Its hard for bad guys to hide themselves in this antiseptic society in order to survive, you gotta be a stainless steel rat, and Slippery Jim diGriz is a really sneaky one. I listened to Brilliance Audios version read by Phil Gigante who gives a lively performance. Brilliance Audio will be producing several more Stainless Steel Rat novels read by Phil Gigante.

That leaves men like DiGriz bored and, unable to cope with society any other way, they plan capers. This leads him into conflict with the beautiful and deadly Angelina, who mostly gets away with stuff because this book was written in 1961, so even in this far-future galactic setting, everyone expects a pretty girl to be a hapless doll, not a sociopathic mastermind plotting revolutions and conquest. This is a classic space opera and light-hearted sci-fi that shows its datedness a bit, but will be fun for anyone who likes the old stuff.

Harry Harrison (born Henry Maxwell Dempsey) was an American science fiction author best known for his character the The Stainless Steel Rat and the novel Make Room!