Yup, I'm still working my way through the Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison, courtesy of the Commerce Township Library, in anticipation of the release later this summer of the first new Stainless Steel Rat novel in more than ten years: The Stainless Steel Rat Returns. Your local library is a great way to catch up on these books. Few libraries stock them all, but most have one or more of the collections and they are all easily available through inter-library loan.
Here's what I've read most recently:
--The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You (1979)
--A Stainless Steel Trio, collecting:
---- A Stainless Steel Rat is Born (1985)
---- The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted (1987)
---- The Stainless Steel Rat Sings the Blues (1994).
All of these are played more for laughs than drama, but they all contain enough action and suspense to keep you turning the pages. None of is likely to be nominated as the best of the series, but they all make for good entertainment with the galaxy's greatest con-man turned interstellar agent Slippery Jim DiGriz. Harry Harrison is a Science Fiction Writers of America Grandmaster for good reason, and these entries all show off his ability to combine good plotting and pacing with a light comic touch.
The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You (1979) -- The fourth of the series. This time Slippery Jim DiGriz is defending the human race from an invasion by a vast coalition of aliens. So, the ultimate undercover agent goes undercover among the aliens, thanks to a loathsome-looking alien suit. Good fun, with several memorably tense scenes in the second half of the book when he finally goes to the planet of his worst enemies, The Grey Men. Good stuff.
A Stainless Steel Trio -- This collection collects up the first three Stainless Steel Rat prequels, in which Harrison goes back and shows us how slippery Jim DiGriz turned to a life of crime and some of his early adventures before he joined the Special Corps.
A Stainless Steel Rat is Born (1985) -- We learn how little Jimmy DiGriz turned Slippery, as he turns to a life of crime and tutors under his planet's greatest career criminal, The Bishop. This is definitely a book best enjoyed after you've read a few of the other novels because the process of discovering his back story is set up so deftly by Harrison.
The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted (1987) -- Slippery Jim goes undercover in a quest for revenge and finds himself drafted into an interplanetary invasion force. Needless to say, the military is no place for this young criminal anarchist. Mayhem and fun ensues.
The Stainless Steel Rat Sings the Blues (1994) -- Slippery Jim DiGriz cuts a deal to get himself out of the clutches of the League Navy and finds himself leading an undercover team on the prison planet of Liokukae. Their undercover identity? The galaxy's greatest rock band: The Stainless Steel Rats! This entry -- one of the later ones in the order in which they were written -- has a lot of interesting things to say about modern culture and celebrity.
Coming soon: A review of The Stainless Steel Rat for President (1982) which is in my hot little hands right now.