Stephen's Reviews > The Stainless Steel Rat

The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Jan 26, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: audiobook, comfort-food, rogues-and-scoundrels, science-fiction, humor-and-satire
Read 2 times. Last read July 13, 2011.


To understand the unique brilliance and enduring popularity of the Stainless Steel Rat, it’s important to understand the world in which these stories take place. It is the far future and genetic manipulation and controls have bred the “malcontent” or “criminal” gene out of humanity...all but a few anyway. Society is sterile, homogenous and lifeless.

Shattering the status quo is James Bolivar DiGriz (aka The Stainless Steel Rat) and his roguish, adventure-filled criminal schemes. He is an exciting anomaly in a BOREfically milquetoasty galaxy filled with MEH. As DiGriz himself explains early on in the novel:
My life is so different from that of the overwhelming majority of people in our society...They exist in a fat, rich union of worlds that have almost forgotten the meaning of the word crime. There are few malcontents. The few that are born...are caught early and the aberration quickly adjusted.Some don’t show their weakness until they are adults, they try their hand at a petty crime -burglary, shoplifting or such. They get away with it for a week or two...but sure as atomic decay...the police reach out and pull them in.

That is almost the full extent of crime in our organized, dandified society. Ninety-nine percent of it, let’s say. That [last] one percent is me and a handful of men scattered around the galaxy. Theoretically, we can’t exist...but we do. We are the rats in the wainscoting of society - we operate outside of their barriers and outside of their rules. Society had more rats when the rules were looser, just as old wooden buildings have more rats than concrete buildings. But there are rats in the building now as well. Now that society is all ferroconcrete and stainless steel there are fewer gaps between the joints and it takes a smart rat to find them. A stainless steel rat is right at home in this environment.

The worldview described above gives the actions of the Stainless Steel Rat a context that I find very compelling. He is an adventuress spirit who in an earlier time would have been a treasure seeker or a soldier of fortune. In this deeply constrained society, however, DiGriz's options for personal expression are so limited that he gave society the finger and decided that master criminal (with a heart of gold) sounded like fun. And fun he has.

This story is like a needle full of liquid happy and will take the hard edge off just about any bad day. The writing is light-hearted but smart and DiGriz's sardonic, witty narration is just awesome. The plot is clever and well thought out. As for DiGriz, he will endear himself to you faster than a sad-eyed puppy. He is truly one of the great characters of science fiction and this first adventure of the Stainless Steel Rat is carting bags of smiles and are a sure fire cure for the blues. 4.0 stars. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

57 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Stainless Steel Rat.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Kat  Hooper I've read the first 3 books in this series on audio. They're tons of fun and I think the audio versions are better than the print. (I don't think I've ever said that before.)

Stephen I listened to the audio version of this one as well and agree that he did a really good job. I actually prefer audio much of the time (as long as there is a good narrator) as I think a good reader can actually enhance the experience of the book. I usually try to have one print book and one audio book going at all times.

Kat  Hooper I always have a print and audiobook going at the same time, too. I just don't have much time to sit and read, so most of my reading is on audio. I read print books that I can't find on audio.

Stephen Same here.

Stacey SSR is treasured by one of my favorite book bloggers. On the strength of his recommendation and yours, I just picked up the audiobook.

Stephen Stacey wrote: "SSR is treasured by one of my favorite book bloggers. On the strength of his recommendation and yours, I just picked up the audiobook."

I hope you like it. The good news is, I think you will know within the first 5 to 10 min of the audiobook whether it is a fit for you as the tone, style and general mindset of the SSR are on immediate display. More good news, if you do enjoy the first one, I think you will love the second.

back to top