The Stainless Steel Rat Series|
The first novel featuring James Bolivar ("Slippery Jim") diGriz. A 'fix-up' and continuation of two short stories which originally appeared in Analog. diGriz is a thief and conman who lives outside the rules of society, and who occasionally - if reluctantly and in unorthodox manner - acts as an agent for the Special Corps, a peace-keeping task force. His adventures (up until 1999) fill ten books, and these are probably the most popular of Harrison's books in terms of sales.
The Rat stories take place in some far future where the homeworld of Earth is an all-but forgotten legend, and where the League seems to be slowly disintegrating into a series of independent worlds with feudal societies - resembling the Empire of Asimov's Foundation stories. The technology of these planets consists of what Brian Aldiss calls "horrible Paleo-Industrial artefacts" (Trillion Year Spree): steam-driven wagons and robots abound in these societies which seem to exist in a far future Ruritania.
This book was adapted into a series of comic books.
In this first novel, diGriz is caught during one of his crimes and recruited into the Special Corps. Boring, routine desk work during his probationary period results in his discovering that someone is building a battleship, thinly disguised as an industrial vessel. In the peaceful League no one has battleships any more, so the builder of this one would be unstoppable.
diGriz' hunt for the guilty becomes a personal battle between himself and the beautiful but deadly Angelina, who his planning a coup on one of the feudal worlds. diGriz' dilemma is whether he will turn Angelina over to the Special Corps, or join with her, since he has fallen in love with her.
"The exploits of Slippery Jim diGriz, the super-crook who was made into a cop and set on the trail of a female of the species, as potent as himself. It's far better than the sequel, which Walker has also published."
"The story of Slippery Jim is told engagingly by Harry Harrison. It's fast and lively reading in a style perfectly attuned to Slippery Jim's character. Read it for light entertainment, but try to ignore a few questionable psychological probings along the way."
"A bad writer, if he writes enough, will come up with a good passage, a memorable character, a remarkable insight. It is a statistical necessity. What then are we to make of a writer who produces a whole book and never does it - not once? ... There is in The Stainless Steel Rat an embarrassment of scenes and situations, adventures, escapes, encounters, gimmicks and gadgets ... It's all there - the beginning, the middle, the end; you know who's going to win and who will lose. The protagonist ... is as omnipotent as Mike Hammer, and as bruisable, and as indestructible, so where is the suspense? And always, always, Mr. Harrison tells me, he does not show me..."