The Stainless Steel Rat Returns by Harry Harrison
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Ever pick up a book you're in the middle of and start reading it just to finish the fucker? That's where I was at with this. It's a cold, hateful place...
The Stain Steel Rat, this sort of zany James Bond in outer space action/comedy series spanned about 50 years. There were decade-long gaps between books. Writers' styles can change over time. I get that and I'm willing to except change. Maybe a character unintentionally evolves. That's fine. I'll roll with it. But when the book series is meant to be a comedy and it is not funny, I will not roll with that.
James "Slippery Jim" diGriz started out in book one as a sarcastic bastard. He was a loose canon, fun, kind of like a nasty Han Solo at the beginning of Stars Wars. By the end of the series (this book is the last one, btw), Jim is now morally upright and utterly boring, like Solo in Return of the Jedi. Returns came out 12 years after the prior book and a whopping 50 years after the first. Was Harry Harrison rusty? Did he forget how to write diGriz? Or did he want to turn his anti-hero into a good guy and leave us with a warm fuzzy for the fella? Whatever the case, he didn't come with a good game plan for this changed character.
In general, Harrison's writing has eroded. There's lot of mundane dialogue. It's not funny or even necessary. The sentences themselves just feel mechanical. Things happen, it looks like it might be rough going, but time and time again the hero fixes it and we're off on our merry way. No tension. No excitement. No reason to care.
Maybe this deserves a half star more than I gave it, but I'm not in a generous mood. Harrison fucked me on this one and he's getting nothing more from me. Nothing! I'm not even shelving this under my "humor" or "comedy" categories. There's no reason to.
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