Friday, 20 March 2015

The Stainless Steel Rat (The Stainless Steel Rat Book 1) - Harry Harrison

Title: The Stainless Steel Rat (The Stainless Steel Rat Book 1)
Author: Harry Harrison
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1961
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“The Stainless Steel Rat” by Harry Harrison is a pulpy sci-fi adventure which was first published in 1961. The story follows James Bolivar diGriz, a.k.a. "Slippery Jim", a rogue who moves between worlds committing various crimes that he believes are victimless. However, his antics have attracted the attention of the mysterious Special Corps who want to recruit him as an agent to catch other criminal. His first assignment for the Special Corps soon pits him against a criminal for whom human life has no value and perhaps someone who could even outsmart Jim diGriz.

The first thing I noted is that book probably hasn’t aged that well. It really does feel like a product of the sixties with a slight misogynistic feel being quite obvious in the society that Harrison has created. In addition some of the technology we see is rather dated by today’s standards, although I do suspect that some of this such as a coal powered robot was there to add some humour rather than being a real imagination of what the future could entail.

Despite the aging of the novel, it is still a very fun and entertaining story to read. It is packed full of humour and action with a quick pacing that ensured I kept on reading. The writing itself isn’t anything special but it is competent enough and much better than the standard in seen in various other pulpy science-fiction.

The characters themselves were enjoyable enough, they are probably rather stereotypical but they are fun enough to follow. DiGriz in particular actually being a likeable character despite his criminal tendencies. This is probably because of two elements, the first being that his morality is actually a complex and interesting thing to see. He only commits crimes that he feels are victimless and he goes out of his way to ensure that no one is killed or injured as part of his activities. Then there is the humour and wit that diGriz brings to the novel, his sarcasm and one liners left me smiling throughout the story which just enhanced my appreciation for him.

Overall, this was an entertaining first novel in Harrison’s “Stainless Steel Rat” series. It isn’t a complex or high-brow story but if you are just looking for some light-hearted, fun science-fiction then this book will easily fulfil that requirement. It does have quite a pulpy style which may not appeal to some fans of contemporary science fiction but personally I still enjoyed it and I will probably read more books in the series.