The Stainless Steel Rat – and its abundance of sequels – follows the exploits of James Bolivar diGriz, also known as Slippery Jim. In this, the first novel, we find Jim performing a daring robbery and fleeing from Special Corps – a kind of police unit comprised of former criminals – as he tries to make good his escape. Cornered by the Special Corps and with no other options, he is recruited by Harold P. Inskipp – previously the galaxy’s greatest crook – and put into service to track down the villain responsible for secretly building a battleship on an otherwise peaceful planet.
The story itself is great, and its definitely of it’s time (originally published in 1961) and I’d say that it really is classic Sci Fi with wild characters and locations that you would expect. Jim himself is very cunning, charming, and likes the finer things in life. He also has a fairly high moral code, but is still on the wrong side of the law.
As the novel progresses, we discover that the initial suspect is merely a patsy for a lady who will become Slippery Jim’s nemesis. The villain of the novel is brilliant, giving it plenty of twists, turns and surprises, that see Slippery Jim having to second guess himself and his nemesis, from start to finish. If something seems straight forward, it probably isn’t. Coming up against a villain as good – maybe even better – than himself, Jim needs to guess what they would do, how he would respond, and how the villain would respond to that and react accordingly, trying to stay several steps ahead of himself and his nemesis in order to try and catch them.
Phil Gigante narrates the novel, and he’s the ideal man for the job. His voice oozes smugness and self-confidence, which fits with Slippery Jim down to a T. Not being a fan of smug gets, I had to remind myself that it was someone narrating the story deliberately like that or I’d find myself becoming annoyed. Job well done! It fits brilliantly with Jim, who is superb at what he does, and knows it.
I’ve downloaded the rest of the series too, so expect more of Slippery Jim in the future. As a retro Sci-Fi novel, it’s definitely worth a listen, and worth one of your Audible credits if you have one going spare.