The Stainless Steel Rat

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First edition paperback.

The Stainless Steel Rat is a science fiction crime novel written by Harry Harrison and published in 1961. Large sections of the book first appeared in Astounding as The Stainless Steel Rat (1957) and The Misplaced Battleship (1960).

The story takes place in the future where most crime and violence has been eradicated, but James diGriz (AKA, the Stainless Steel Rat) is one of the few criminal masterminds left and is wanted across the galaxy. He is finally caught and forced to work for an elite law enforcement organization called the Special Corps where he discovers the creation of a secret battleship that could undermine the tranquility of the entire galaxy.

Personal

I was looking for a short and easy fiction book to read, and this came up. I finished it on 2021-12-29 and was annoyed for most of it. I can see how this book could appeal to rebellious adolescent boys who don't yet know what good writing looks like, but I haven't the slightest idea why anyone else would like it.

I don't own the book, but I've listened to an audio book. I can't fully identify the reader's name, it sounds like "John Pore," but I can't find any information about this version to verify.

Review

— This section contains spoilers! —

Good

  • Nothing.

Bad

  • In order to make the reader able to root for a crook like James diGriz, the author goes to great pains to make sure he never kills anyone and even offers restitution to the individuals he injures.
  • The author is way off on his future predictions. For example, despite having colonized much of the galaxy, people are still reading printed newspapers and converting them to microfilm to be stored in libraries! He also describes a robot that uses burning coal as a power source!
  • diGriz is far too capable. He's a criminal mastermind able to plan perfect heists, he can easily break out of prisons, he can flawlessly adopt any persona he desires, and he's able to defeat stronger foes in combat with ease.
  • The book suggests that sleep hypnosis actually works.
  • The scene where Angelina falls for diGriz is pretty lame. She would have no reason to be attracted to him, and certainly no reason to make herself vulnerable to him.

Ugly

  • The plot is just a long series of deus Ex Machina. Is diGriz cornered at last? Nope, it didn't come up before, but he was carrying sleeping gas grenades which knock out the police, and they don't affect him because he also wears filtration nose plugs (which I just thought to mention), and the police don't wear nose plugs because they've never encountered gas-based weapons before, even though diGriz uses them all the time. This completely ruins the story because, any time there is even a little tension, you know the author will come up with some obnoxiously contrived way to resolve it. I considered giving up several times as I read it, but, since the book is so short, I slogged on.
  • The book is quite sexist. For example, diGriz knows that Angelina has murdered dozens of people, but, when she fails to ensure his murder fully, he blames it on female squeamishness. Later, Angelina's ability to so casually murder innocent people is attributed to a mental disorder caused by... being an ugly child, a condition which is described as being far worse for women to have to endure than men. There are similar ridiculously sexist observations made throughout the book.

Media

Covers

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