Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat

Harry Harrison The Adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat (1972)

Collecting the first three of Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat novels, two of which I vaguely recall from their comic strip adaptations in 2000AD. Whilst not really one of the mighty Tharg's more memorable offerings, the art of Carlos Ezquerra was impressive as ever, and it clearly did enough to instil curiosity sufficient to inspire my plucking this anthology from the shelf of Half-Price Books thirty or so years later.

The Stainless Steel Rat (1961), The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge (1970), and The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World (1972) are, as I expected, ripping futuristic spy-thrillers, unlikely to have one scrabbling for a well-worn copy of Plato's Republic in search of some obscure reference or other, but then that was never really their job.  I'd say Slippery Jim diGriz - the rat of the title - is essentially James Bond in space with a slight counter-cultural twist and a more well developed sense of humour, although being as I haven't actually read anything by Ian Fleming since I was about twelve this may well be bollocks; but hopefully you get the idea.

We have bank robberies, Robin Hood moments, time travel, typically futuristic gadgetry and overpowered security guards revealed to be wearing women's knickers beneath their uniforms - all somehow amounting to a suggestion of diGriz as a young Malcolm McDowell doing comedy turns to camera whilst his long-suffering boss, played by Leo McKern, fumes in silence. It's nothing deep and it's probably dated, but it's also nicely written and a lot of fun. These are the sort of novels you whiz through over the course of a long afternoon, and I suppose my only criticism is that welding three of them together like this somehow misses a point, although it's surely worth noting that I found myself reading all three in quick succession without a trace of boredom.

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