Friday, November 30, 2012

The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You! (Harry Harrison)

Review of the Fourth Book in the Stainless Steel Rat Series

The fourth book in the Stainless Steel Rat series, The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You!, continues to follow the adventures of Slippery Jim deGriz, the master criminal turned secret agent. The book starts off with his wife and fellow criminal, Angelina, being arrested by the Interstellar Internal and External Revenue. It is comforting to see that even in the 30th century that some things never change; people still dislike the IRS and paying taxes; though Jim deGriz, the Stainless Steel Rat, is a crook and did engage in some creative bookkeeping, something that no one should actually do.

Jim deGriz joins forces with his twin sons, James and Bolivar, who had been serving time in the Dorsky Military Boarding School and Penitentiary, to free his wife and cause trouble for the taxman.
But this is not the main twist of the story, just the opening credits. The real thrust of this book is the start of an interstellar war with what can be best described by bug-eyed monsters who have decided that humanity is just too ugly to continue to exist. Outgunned and outnumbered, humanity needs to find a way to stop the alien menace.

And their agent of choice is the Stainless Steel Rat, who works for the top secret government agency, the Special Corps, an agency that employs the best criminal minds in the galaxy. So the family is off to infiltrate the alien forces.

As typical of the adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat, there are setbacks. Angelina and one of their sons are captured by aliens. There are also the miraculous solutions to the problems encountered.
Harry Harrison, author of "West of Eden", actually makes fun of the use of the deus ex machina. When the use of the simple solution is considered, the author has first the Morality Corps show up to stop the use of the solution, and then the Temporal Constabulary (Time Police).

It is an interesting concept of a government agency whose purpose is to stop other government agencies from doing immoral deeds. Considering that this book was written in 1979, it is obvious that some things just don't change; governments and their secret agencies have always done dubious deeds. Imagine trying to prevent that.

In the end, the only solution available to Jim deGriz is to address the real cause of the war. The author though the surprise intervention of the Morality Corps and the Time Police prevents the Stainless Steel Rat from taking the easy way out. This results in the author being able to wrap up a few loose threads left over from one of the earlier books of the series.

Overall, I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars. It is a light read, but still a fun evening's entertainment.

[This review originally appeared on Associated Content (Yahoo Voices) on 12/18/2008. The copy used was brought and paid for by myself.]

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