Review of The Stainless Steel Rat

Originally published in May and June 2004, in 3 parts.
Book 19 in my first 52 books challenge.

Entry 1:

Author: Harry Harrison
Published: 1966 (this edition: 1997)
Where got: Bookstore, sale
Genre: Science fiction, action

I’ve wanted to read this book since I read and enjoyed Harry Harrison’s short story “The Golden Years of the Stainless Steel Rat” in the comic fantasy collection The Flying Sorcerers.

This is classic science fiction, as can be seen from how long this book has been in print. First published in 1966, it is still being reprinted.

Harry Harrison’s official website.

Entry 2:

Progress report:
So far so good. This is not as funny as I had thought it would be after reading the short story, but maybe the stories get funnier in the later books (did I mention this is the first in a series?). The style is very straightforward and reminds me of classic macho tough guy detective stories. The story is plot driven and there has been action on nearly every page so far. The Stainless Steel Rat is not having a good time where I am reading right now – he’s got serious female trouble.

Entry 3:

Finished the book on my lunch break today. Am planning on starting to read next week’s book tonight, as it is a long one and will probably require me doing some research on the side.

The story:
At the beginning of the story, career criminal James Bolivar diGriz, the Stainless Steel Rat, is in the process of escaping from the scene of his latest crime. By chapter 4 he’s been recruited – reluctantly (his reluctance, not theirs) - by the Special Corps, an elite team of special police whose job it is to control and prevent intergalactic crime. When a mission goes wrong and a highly dangerous and attractive criminal escapes, Jim is determined to see the mission through to the end, even if it means abandoning his post and becoming a renegade from the Corps. The rest of the book describes how he tracks down his criminal and what happens afterwards.

The technical points:
As I have already mentioned, the story is plot driven and the narrative style is in the vein of the classic tough guy detective story. The narrative is in the first person. There isn’t much dialogue, but what there is serves to carry on the action. There are several twists, some more unexpected than others. The humour is in the sometimes ironic situations Jim finds himself in, and the author also had fun with names, some of which are puns and others which are only funny if you know a bit of German. The writing is hardly what I would call sparkling, but there’s never a dull moment, and Jim is the kind of character you can’t help but like.

I do have one gripe with the book, and that is that the story is not completely resolved (for me). Having read a short story about Jim in his golden years, I know something of what takes place after this book ends, and now it will nag me until I have read the rest. If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you will know that I hate stories that spill out into several books. Oh, well, at least they are all published and in print and the library has some of them. Off to the library I go…

A sci-fi classic that should interest sci-fi, action and detective story fans. 3 stars.


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