Monday, 7 November 2011

Metal Mickey [Review: The Stainless Steel Rat]

Slippery Jim Di Griz is a small-time crook with a big-time ego: one of the last few con-artists in a future where almost all crime has been eliminated, he survives by keeping one step ahead and never running the same con twice. He is proud of his achievements and views his chosen lifestyle in romantic terms, but the rat is an apt metaphor: at the start of Harry Harrison’s space opera, Jim’s current enterprise involves stealing food from the back of a warehouse.

Even with a flair for planning original crimes, not everything goes to plan for the Rat. After falling into the hands of an interstellar police force Jim sets off on a trail across the galaxy in search of a beautiful psychopath who eludes or outsmarts him at every turn and of course steals his heart. An interesting sub-plot is Slippery Jim’s aversion to killing: for Jim this is the final taboo. Nevertheless he cannot outhink his lovely prey unless he can get inside her mind: on one occasion using a mind-altering drug to draw out his own murderous tendencies.

The Stainless Steel Rat is a comedy and a satire but not a spoof: it’s comic sci-fi done right. It’s also classic space opera, and there’s always another FTL spaceship to board, steal or commandeer. Later in his writing career, Harrison wrote several novels spoofing the genre, such as Star Smashers Of The Galaxy Rangers in which the heroes discover a hyperdrive powered by cheese. However his disdain for space opera hasn’t apparently stopped Harrison from writing a further ten Stainless Steel Rat novels, the most recent of which was published in 2010. I have some reading ahead of me.


Maurice Mitchell said...

Sounds like an awesome series of books. A con-man in a world without crime. Ha! I'll have to add it to my read list.

Bangla choti said...

Hoping this will be a cool si fic . Thank you to write about this.