Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood

June 14, 2009

Harry Harrison – The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World

Filed under: sf — Tags: , , , , — Sam @ 12:47 pm

I adore the Stainless Steel Rat books. I grew up with them – my father’s old Sphere paperbacks, and then 2000AD serialized The Stainless Steel Rat For President in 1984/5. (I was 8. I was in heaven.)

Slippery Jim DiGriz has always been the epitome of the fast-talking, high-living, straight-shooting trickster hero (and First Person Smartass), and what’s more he never kills people. He’s rather the Technical Pacifist, though, and it’s stated fairly unambiguously that this is down to his not wanting to kill people rather than, you know, not wanting them to die. And I don’t have a problem with that… it’s more honest than the A-Team version, where they very carefully show everyone escaping from the burning building or the car crash. And Jim rarely sheds a tear (except in a melodramatic smartass kind of way) for the mooks who do insist on dying. This happens a lot around his wife Angelina.

Speaking of Angelina, though… she’s a former psycho killer mastermind, who was born Extremely Ugly and had herself reshaped into ravishingness. She and Slippery Jim fell in love, and he had top Patrol doctors surgically implant a conscience in her. This is possibly a littlIe too close to Taming Wild Women for my taste, but, well, 1972 SF.

Speaking of 1972… well, 1975 really. This is one of that odd sub-genre of SF where the protagonist travels to the author’s time (or timeline) and generally place, and we’re supposed to derive some enjoyment from their attempts to understand our world or their gleeful rampage through it. And, of course, from recognizing things they don’t.

It seems to be closely related to that odd sub-genre of SF set in a fantastical world which halfway through turns out, with a nod and a wink, to be a postapocalyptic version of our own.

I suppose you could call them reverse portal-quest stories; there’s probably a case for understanding them as a kind of mooreeffoc story, with the same abrupt disruptive perceptual shift in the Way Things Are.

On the other hand, the past is a different country, and 1970s America even more so; I feel that that perceptual shift trivializes and distances the interestingness of it. Which is probably useful in context, since that lets us focus on the characters and the capers instead of the scenery.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress