BooksOfTheMoon

The Stainless Steel Rat for President (Stainless Steel Rat, #8)

By Harry Harrison

Rating: 3 stars

Slippery Jim DiGriz is back, this time away to the paradise planet (so the tourist brochures say) of Paraiso Aqui, from where a garbled message has come. Now a reformed character, he finds a planet with a façade of democracy but ruled by a brutal dictator. With his psychopathic wife and equally crooked children by his side, he sets out to rig the already rigged election and bring true democracy to this benighted planet.

A fun short novel, it’s nice to see Slippery Jim up to his old tricks again, with his apparently infinite supply of smoke bombs, sleeping gas and other bits and bobs that a straight crook needs.

Just as I was thinking that Jim was having everything his own way, he ran into some serious trouble, that slowed him down (although being the Stainless Steel Rat, not for all that long).

There are a few satirical notes on dictatorship and democracy, but these are kept to the background, leaving the adventure and humour to come to the fore. A fun, if a somewhat shallow, story that’s enjoyable and quick to read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780722145364
Publisher: Sphere Books Limited
Year of publication: 1982

West of Eden (West of Eden, #1)

By Harry Harrison

Rating: 3 stars

This book posits the question: what would have happened if the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs had never occurred. It answers that a sentient species, the Yilanè would have appeared. It further posits that a North America that was isolated from the rest of the world (the land bridge of central America being submerged for some time) would have harboured mammals that would eventually have evolved into humans. This book tells of the first Yilanè attempt to colonise the new world and the clash of cultures that occurred when they encountered sentient mammals.

The Yilanè of this book in some ways reminded me a lot of ‘the folk’ of John Brunner’s The Crucible of Time: they are a believable alien race, with advanced biotechnology and an inability to lie, albeit with a huge side-order of xenophobia. Although to be fair, this is very much reciprocated by the (hunter-gatherer) humans they encounter. The first instinct of the hunter was to kill them all and stomp the young underfoot. This sets up the pattern for what follows: you killed us, so we must kill you because you killed us because…

Our protagonist through the story is a young boy named Kerrick. With him, we follow the familiar story of a boy kidnapped at a young age, raised with his captors in their language, believing himself to be one of them until he rediscovers his roots, kills the Yilanè around him and returns to his people. In this case, to be their advisor on all things Yilanè and how to kill them. Oh, and with some added inter-species sex (consent uncertain) before enlightenment.

In a lot of ways, this is a frustrating book. At no time do the two species ever attempt to negotiate or to talk to one another. They are both convinced that they other must be wiped off the face of the earth (or, at least the continent). In a tribe of hunter-gatherers, I can almost understand this, but the Yilanè have been civilised for millennia, and should really know better.

Still, there’s a core of a fun adventure story in this book, even if attempts at genocide, with varying degrees of success, do leave a bit of a sour taste in the mouth.

Book details

ISBN: 9780586057810
Publisher: Panther Books Limited
Year of publication: 1984

Bill, the Galactic Hero (Bill, #1)

By Harry Harrison

Rating: 3 stars

Several of the quotes on the back cover of this book compare it (favourably) to Catch-22 and the comparison is certainly justified. This is a similar anti-war satire on bureaucracy and the military but for me, it didn’t quite work. Despite Terry Pratchett claiming on the front cover that his is the funniest SF book ever written, it’s not. His own are more laugh out loud funny, and Douglas Adams might be in there, or even Harrison’s other series featuring The Stainless Steel Rat but this was too depressing, possibly because it’s all too plausible, to be that funny for me.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575047013
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 1965

The Stainless Steel Rat Goes to Hell (Stainless Steel Rat, #9)

By Harry Harrison

Rating: 3 stars

Another adventure for Slippery Jim DiGriz, the Stainless Steel Rat. This time there’s a conman on the loose, promising rich people a glimse (and more) of heaven. Jim’s wife is missing and he has to track down the physicist at the heart of it before it’s too late.

A major problem that I had with this book is the the tame scientist on hand, ready to invent exactly what’s needed to move on to the next bit of plot. What keeps it going, however, is Harrison’s sense of pace. He keeps the book going fairly quickly, and you get drawn in. Enjoyable fun, but over-reliant on the gadgets and not the Rat’s own abilities.

Book details

ISBN: 9780752817194
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 1996

The Stainless Steel Rat’s Revenge (Stainless Steel Rat, #5)

By Harry Harrison

Rating: 3 stars

This was a fun, moderately mindless action book. Special agent Slippery Jim DiGriz is called in to infiltrate and stop a race who are successfully mounting interstellar invasions, something unheard of until now. He does it on a recently-invaded matriarchial planet where the women are all beautiful and don’t wear very much.

I enjoyed this book. There wasn’t much to it, but it was a nice easy read, certainly what I needed after The Bulpington of Blup.

Book details

ISBN: 9781857984996
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 1970

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