Monday, 20 July 2015

The Stainless Steel Rat for President / Harry Harrison

3 out of 5 stars
The Stainless Steel rat is back! Slippery Jim diGriz, the future's most lovable, laughable, larcenous conman turned counterspy, returns for yet another high-tension mission.

This time the Special Corps has given the Rat a daring assignment - liberate a backward tourist planet from the clutches of an aging dictator. With his lovely but lethal wife, Angelina, and his two stalwart sons, James and Bolivar, diGriz pits ballots against bullets in the fight for freedom. He's vowed to restore truth, justice, and democracy to the world of Parisio-Aqui, if he has to lie, cheat, and steal to do it.

What is left for the Stainless Steel Rat to fight for? Democracy, of course—a rather ironic struggle for Slippery Jim diGriz, who is much more at home in the criminal underworld. But Harrison couldn’t resist the politician-as-crook angle, so Jim must run for president of the planet Parisio-Aqui.

Harrison must have known a little Spanish and/or Esperanto, judging by the frequency of those languages showing up in the Rat books. If the reader has some familiarity with them, there are amusing little plays on words here and there.

Angelina, Jim’s wife, is still putting up with him and putting a damper on any wooing of lovely locals that he would like to do. And his grown sons, James and Bolivar, are chips off the old block. It seems to me that Jim’s alcohol intake may be a bit higher than in previous books, but his ability to think on his feet is still keeping him one jump ahead of his adversaries.

Harrison obviously was fond of the Stainless Steel Rat and enjoyed returning to see what he had been up to lately. This series has laid down templates for charming con-men and criminals in science fiction, introducing the less-than-innocent main character that is presented with humour and knowingness. Still, you wouldn’t want to read the books one right after the other, or the formula would become very cloying.

This is book number 179 in my science fiction & fantasy reading project.

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