Commentary: The Stainless Steel Rat audiobooks

SFFaudio Commentary


I’m not a fan of series, normally, but I’m utterly enthralled by this one. More than fifty years in the writing The Stainless Steel Rat series is completely available, for the first time, as series of audiobooks from Brilliance Audio.

James Bolivar diGriz (aka Slippery Jim diGriz) is the protagonist of the series and the titular Stainless Steel Rat of the title. He’s an anti-hero you’ll be wholly in favour of. He’s slick and quick and fast with a quip as he tells his own tale, in first person (past tense), like an adventurer out of some long forgotten future age.

As the first novel, The Stainless Steel Rat |READ OUR REVIEW|, begins diGriz is a low down and completely immaculate criminal, an uncatchable super-thief and con-man who has earned his name for never being caught. But before too long he’s soon baited, corralled, and ensnared by an insidious interstellar agency that’s been tracking the resourceful rodent and means to draft him!

By the end of the first story-arc the reluctant recruit has settled down (and married) the psychopathic arch-criminal that he’d been chasing after. Then, moonlighting on his extended honeymoon (the next couple books), he proceeds to traipse across both time and space as an interstellar (and inter-epoch) troubleshooter.

You’d think it’d be hard for diGriz to play good guy, but this galahad in grey steel still has his fun. In fact, he funds all of his galactic gallivanting by good old fashioned bank robbery! And when not actually in the act of larceny he never fails to luxuriate in the finest of hotels (or the finest cave of his own construction). Soon he’s snuffing out a intragalactic coup-d’etat, getting grief from his honey and back to stealing all of his boss’s finest cigars right before existence ends. Then it is all: ‘Quick give me a copy of your mind, and yours too, and all those weapons there and this equipment there! I’ve got to travel back in time to a planet called “Dirt” to prevent all this nothing from happening.’

Amazingly, the stories just work. The universe which Harry Harrison has created is one in which anything that can be imagined exists. There’s mind wiping, personality reconstruction, sleep gas grenades, mind and memory transfer, immortality, gravity belts, atomic compressor tools, faster than light travel and robots robots robots everywhere! Harrision invents the tech for the Rat to play with but never fully describes it. And so it never seems old-fashioned, becomes all the more plausible and you can just go with the action. The characters are fresh and perky with personality. The plots, which are grandiose but never very central to the immediate action, serve to provide scene after scene of hilarious problem and ingenious solution for the wily Stainless Steel rodent to navigate. The novels aren’t long, and make for great fun between heavier books by the likes of H.G. Wells and Joe Haldeman.

To me, narrator Phil Gigante has become Slippery Jim diGriz. He’s playful, full of accents for all the colourful characters and he pitches every scene just how it should be – fun, funny and fast.

If you’re looking for a series that won’t let you down, you’ve got to try this one. I’m absolutely loving it!

Here’s the publication order:
The Stainless Steel Rat |READ OUR REVIEW| (1961)
The Stainless Steel Rat’s Revenge (1970)
The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World (1972)
The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You (1978)
The Stainless Steel Rat For President(1982)
The Stainless Steel Rat Is Born (1985)
The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted (1987)
The Stainless Steel Rat Sings the Blues (1994)
The Stainless Steel Rat Goes To Hell (1996)
The Stainless Steel Rat Joins The Circus (1999)
The Stainless Steel Rat Returns (2010)

Posted by Jesse Willis

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