Thursday, April 13, 2017

Review:: The Stainless Steel Rat Sings the Blues

Title: The Stainless Steel Rat Sings the Blues
Author: Harry Harrison
Series: The Stainless Steel Rat, #8 (Publication Order)
Format: Hardcover
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted

Another Stainless Steel Rat prequel doesn't deliver the original wit and charm of the series. I'm singing the blues myself as Harrison plays too many tropes straight, and doesn't quite manage to cross the line twice.

The plot is, as one would expect, full of standard skiffy fare. Having been caught stealing, our intrepid hero is given a choice: rot in prison or uncover and return a missing artifact. And he has no chance of ratting himself out this time; he's been injected with a poison and only his captors have the antidote.

My biggest problem with the book is that it seems to stretch itself too thin. All the books are satire, but Harrison usually has one thing he's trying to comment on or parody. In this book, he aims at multiple targets and he just doesn't have time to do anything really clever with them.

So, posing as a musician of all things, Slippery Jim attempts to infiltrate multiple communities on the prison planet where it's believed a legendary alien artifact is hidden.

Each of these "communities" seem to be an attempt at some form of satire, much like Gulliver's Travels but without the wit and dedication. The communities are so over the top that it's impossible to take the parody seriously. If he had more time to spend in each, perhaps he could have crossed the line twice, made it so unbelievable that we can bring back our willing suspension of disbelief.

I often tell people to read this series, but I can't in good conscience recommend this book to anyone but a completionist.


  1. I do need to read more of the Stainless Steel Rat books. I think I only finished one... I had an omnibus from the library, but it contained the books in a weird order, which is always annoying.

    1. Yeah, so the stupid thing is that someone at some point decided that people should read the books in chronological order with some books omitted. This GREATLY annoyed me when they started selling Narnia books this way, but at least they didn't leave out books in that series. Sigh. So the omnibuses are a frickin mess.