Title: The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge
Author: Harry Harrison
Series: The Stainless Steel Rat, #2 (Publication Order)
This series is honestly my favorite skiffy series of all time. Our intrepid hero, Slippery Jim diGriz is at it again. He's hooked up with the beautiful Angelina who is due for twins and will stop at nothing to entwine him in nuptials. Unfortunately, said nuptials put him back on the grid and the Special Forces have a new assignment for him.
There's a lot I'd hate in this book if it weren't written by Harry Harrison. But he's never taking himself seriously, so attitudes in the book never feel like they're his, even when they'd make sense for the era.
The Special Forces have taken note of a planet that has started taking over other planets in the galaxy. Which doesn't make sense at all because everyone knows interstellar warfare just isn't feasible. It takes too many resources to make it profitable. So they throw the Stainless Steel Rat in undercover, to figure out how the Cliaandians are making the impossible possible.
Stripped of all of his usual tools in order to get through the most detailed customs inspection he's ever faced, he has only his wits to rely on while trying to work his way through this grim, militaristic world. Naturally, he uncovers a conspiracy, a conspiracy he's not able to foil. But he is able to stop the Cliaandians... even if he isn't able to topple the whole problem.
While Jim is undercover, he finds that the next planet for conquest is a resort planet that's ruled by women. Men are considered the "inferior" gender on this planet, and so treated. Normally, this trope really gets under my skin, but when it's done in a humor way, rather than a "look no really this is the way women are treated so let's make this an issue" way, which pretty much always fails, it's not nearly as troubling. And besides, it gives room for Angelina to throw even more barbs at her dear husband.
I really do love this series. Are they the best writing in the world? No, but if they were, it'd take away part of the charm. Are they clever? Hell yes. Self-aware and funny to the extreme. Moments like finding out the military HQ is named "The Octagon" ... because it has eight sides are just the tip of the iceberg. With authors like Douglas Adams, it's easy to take a few quotes out of context, but with Harry Harrison, it's the entire thing, the plot, the execution, the humor... (Not to say that Douglas Adam's books aren't the whole thing either. It's just harder to take Harrison out of context.)
Unfortunately, most of these books are out of print. But... you can sometimes find the compiled versions of the books more easily, used copies are available at many bookstores and on Amazon, and while it's a struggle for me to find all of them at my library (especially the CYOA one, which I want desperately), if you put in the work, they are there.