Review of “The Stainless Steel Rat’s Revenge” by Harry Harrison

The blandest of several covers used on the print copy of this book, which was published in 1970. I read an ebook with this cover, borrowed from the Fairfax Public library.

I vaguely recall the Stainless Steel Rat series when I was in high school (Harrison wrote more over the following decades). I didn’t read it or the first one because the covers looked kind of childish to me at the time. I was reading more “mature” SF authors like Heinlein and Asimov. I think this was meant for young teens, which I’m not above reading.

As with every other book I’ve reviewed, the grammatical errors increased after the halfway point, but they still weren’t distracting. The writing style wasn’t that different from the probable target audience, i.e., long-winded sentences that sometimes changed topic unexpectedly. The witty comments reminded me of the Spiderman comics I read in middle school.

The protagonist is a spy who works for some kind of galactic overseer agency, saving planets with help from gadgets and his sidekick/wife. From Jim diGriz’s repeated escapes from the same sinister empire, I’d say his imagination exceeds the author’s although it mostly relied on smoke grenades and perfect timing. The “action” was nonstop but highly repetitive. I was hoping for a surprise ending–the hero getting killed.

It was, however, interesting to see how limited an author’s imagination can be, especially in a genre like SF. For example, Harrison couldn’t imagine wireless devices (this was in 1970), and the cars (far in the future on another planet) sounded like the big-block V-8s that were popular when he wrote this book. And, despite the existence of warp drives (this was after Star Trek), the spaceships were apparently constructed of steel, and rusted. There are no drones, but there is a driverless cab and robot house cleaners.

This would probably be okay for a very narrow audience today, mostly boys between 10 and 13, because it doesn’t contain any sex but lots of junior-high innuendo (e.g. large bosoms and his jealous wife).

I’m glad I didn’t read it when it first came out because I probably would have thrown it in the trash can, wasting a few of my scarce dollars…

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