One of SF's most beloved rogues: the Stainless Steel Rat!
Slippery Jim DiGriz is the Stainless Steel Rat: the galaxy's greatest interstellar thief and con artist. For novel upon novel, the Rat has outfoxed the forces of conventionality, cutting a stylish swathe through dozens of star systems-and stealing the hearts of thousands of readers.
Now three of the Rat's greatest exploits are collected in a single volume. In A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born, we see the origin and early days of Jim DiGriz's brilliant criminal career, as our underworld hero is forced to work for the Good Guys. Conscripted again in The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted, this time into a planetary army, the Rat must avenge the murder of his mentor-in-crime. And in The Stainless Steel Rat Sings the Blues, Slippery Jim must retrieve a missing alien artifact, while disguised as a futuristic rock-and-roller...or forfeit his life.
About the Author
Harry Harrison is the author of Deathworld, Make Room! Make Room! (filmed as Soylent Green), the popular Stainless Steel Rat books, and many other famous works of SF.
Read an Excerpt
As I approached the front door of The First Bank of Bit O' Heaven, it sensed my presence and swung open with an automatic welcome. I stepped briskly throughand stopped. But I was just far enough inside so that the door was unable to close behind me. While it was sliding shut I took the arc pen from my bagthen spun about just as it had closed completely. I had stop-watched its mechanical reflex time on other trips to the bank, so I knew that I had just 1.67 seconds to do the necessary. Time enough.
The arc buzzed and flared and welded the door securely to its frame. After this all the door could do was buzz helplessly, immobile, until something in the mechanism shorted out and it produced some crackling sparks, then died.
"Destruction of bank property is a crime. You are under arrest."
As it was speaking, the robot bank guard reached out its large padded hands to seize and hold me until the police arrived.
"Not this time, you jangling junkpile," I snarled, and pushed it in the chest with the porcuswine prod. The two metal points produced 300 volts and plenty of amps. Enough to draw the attention of a one-tonne porcuswine. Enough to short the robot completely. Smoke spurted from all its joints and it hit the floor with a very satisfactory crash.
Behind me. For I had already leapt forward, shouldering aside the old lady who stood at the teller's window. I pulled the large handgun from my bag and pointed it at the teller and growled out my command.
"Your money or your life, sister. Fill this bag with bucks."
Very impressive, though my voice did break a bit so the last words came out in a squeak. The teller smiled at this and tried to brazen it out.
"Go home, sonny. This is not…"
I pulled the trigger and the .75 recoilless boomed next to her ear; the cloud of smoke blinded her. She wasn't hit but she might just as well have been. Her eyes rolled up in her head and she slid slowly from sight behind the till.
You don't foil Jimmy diGriz that easily! With a single bound I was over the counter and waving the gun at the rest of the wide-eyed employees.
"Step backall of you! Quick! I want no little pinkies pressing the silent alarm buttons. That's it. You, butterball" I waved over the fat teller who had always ignored me in the past. He was all attention now. "Fill this bag with bucks, large denominations, and do it now."
He did it, fumbling and sweating yet working as fast as he could. The customers and staff all stood around in odd poses, apparently paralyzed with fear. The door to the manager's office stayed closed, which meant that he probably wasn't there. Chubby had the bag filled with bills and was holding it out to me. The police had not appeared. There was a good chance I was getting away with it.
I muttered what I hoped was a foul curse under my breath and pointed to one of the sacks that were filled with rolls of coins.
"Dump out the change and fill that too," I ordered, sneering and growling at the same time.
He obeyed with alacrity and soon had this bag stuffed full as well. And still no sign of the police. Could it be that not one of the moronic money employees had pressed the silent alarm button? It could be. Drastic measures would have to be taken.
I reached out and grabbed up another bag of coins. "Fill this one as well," I ordered, slinging it across to him.
As I did this I managed to get the alarm button with my elbow. There are some days when you have to do everything for yourself.
This had the desired effect. By the time the third bag was full, and I was staggering towards the door with my loot, the police began to appear. One groundcar managed to crash into another (police emergencies are pretty rare around these parts), but eventually they sorted themselves out and lined up outside, guns ready.
"Don't shoot," I squeaked. With real fear, because most of them didn't look too bright. They couldn't hear me through the windows but they could see me. "It's a dummy," I called out. "See!"
I put the muzzle of the gun to the side of my head and pulled the trigger. There was a satisfactory puff of smoke from the smoke generator and the sound effect of the shot was enough to make my ears ring. I dropped behind the counter, away from their horrified gaze. At least there would be no shooting now. I waited patiently while they shouted and cursed and finally broke down the door.
Now, you might find all of this puzzlingif so I do not blame you. It is one thing to hold up a bank, another thing still to do it in such a manner that you are sure to be caught. Why, you might ask, why be so foolish?
I'll be happy to tell you. To understand my motives you have to understand what life is like on this planetwhat my life has been like. Let me explain.
Bit O' Heaven was founded some thousands of years ago by some exotic religious cult, which has happily since vanished completely. They came here from another planet; some say it was Dirt or Earth, the rumored home of all mankind, but I doubt it. In any case, things didn't work out too well. Maybe the endless labors were too much for themthis was certainly no picnic-world in the early days. As the teachers at school remind us as often as they can, particularly when they tell us how spoiled the young folk are these days. We manage not to tell them that they must be spoiled as well because certainly nothing has changed here in the last thousand years.
In the beginning, sure, it must have been rough. All of the plant life was pure poison to human metabolisms and had to be cleared away so edible crops could be grown. The native fauna was just as poisonous, with teeth and claws to match. It was tough. So tough that ordinary cows and sheep had a shockingly short life expectancy. Selective gene manipulation took care of that and the first porcuswine were sent here. Imagine if you canand you will need a fertile imagination indeeda one-tonne angry boar hog with sharp tusks and a mean disposition. That's bad enough, but picture the creature covered with long quills like an insane porcupine. Odd as it sounds, the plan worked; since the farms are still breeding porcuswine in large numbers it had to have worked. Bit O' Heaven Smoked Porcuswine Hams are famed galaxy-wide.
But you won't find the galaxy rushing to visit this piggy planet. I grew up here, I know. This place is so boring even the porcuswine fall asleep.
The funny part is that I seem to be the only one who notices it. They all look at me funny. My Mom always thought that it was just growing pains and burnt porcuswine quills in my bedroom, a folk remedy for same. Dad was always afraid of incipient insanity and used to haul me off to the doctor about once a year. The doctor couldn't find anything wrong and theorized that I might be a throwback to the original settlers, a loser in the Mendelian crapshoot. But that was years ago. I haven't been bothered with parental attention since Dad threw me out of the house when I was fifteen. This was after he had gone through my pockets one night and discovered that I had more money than he did. Mom agreed fervently with him and even opened the door. I think they were glad to see the last of me. I was certainly too much of an irritation in their bovine existence.
What do I think? I think it can be damn lonely at times, being an outcast. But I don't think I would have it any other way. It can have its problemsbut problems have solutions.
For example, one problem I licked was getting beat up all the time by the bigger kids. This began happening as soon as I went to school. I made the mistake at first of letting them know I was brighter than they were. Bam, a black eye. The school bullies liked it so much that they had to take turns to beat up on me. I only broke the punishment cycle by bribing a university physical education teacher to give me lessons in unarmed combat. I waited until I was really proficient before fighting back. Then I creamed my wouldbe creamer and went on to beat up three more of the thugs one after another. I can tell you, all the little kids were my friends after that and never tired of telling me how great it looked to see me chasing six of the worst ruffians down the block. Like I said, from problems come solutionsnot to say pleasures.
And where did I get the money to bribe the teacher? Not from Dad, I can tell you. Three bucks a week was my allowance, enough to buy maybe two Gaspo-Fizzes and a small sized Get-Stuffed candy bar. Need, not greed, taught me my first economic lesson. Buy cheap and sell dear and keep the profits for yourself.
Of course there was nothing I could buy, having no capital, so I resorted to not paying at all for the basic product. All kids shoplift. They go through the phase and usually get it beaten out of them when they are detected. I saw the unhappy and tear-stained results of failure and decided to do a market survey as well as a time and motion study before I entered on a career of very petty crime.
Firststay away from the small merchants. They know their stock and have a strong interest in keeping it intact. So do your shopping at the large multis. All you have to worry about then are the store detectives and alarm systems. Then careful study of how they operate will generate techniques to circumvent them.
One of my earliest and most primitive techniquesI blush at revealing its simplicityI called the book-trap. I constructed a box that looked exactly like a book. Only it had a spring-loaded, hinged bottom. All I needed to do was to push it down on an unsuspecting Get-Stuffed bar to have the candy vanish from sight. This was a crude but workable device that I used for a good length of time. I was about to abandon it for a superior technique when I perceived an opportunity to finish it off in a most positive manner. I was going to take care of Smelly.
His name was Bedford Smillingham but Smelly was the only name we ever called him. As some are born dancers or painters, others are shaped for lesser tasks. Smelly was a born snitch. His only pleasure in life was ratting on his schoolmates. He peeked and watched and snitched. No juvenile peccadillo was too minor for him to note and report to the authorities. They loved him for thiswhich will tell you a lot about the kind of teachers we had. Nor could he be beat up with impunity. His word was always believed and it was the beater-uppers who suffered the punishment.
Smelly had done me some small ill, I forget exactly what, but it was enough to stir dark and brooding thought, to eventually produce a plan of action. Bragging is a thing all boys enjoy, and I achieved great status by revealing my book-shaped candy bar collector to my peer group. There were oohs and ahhs, made more ooh and ahhish by portioning out some of the loot free for the taking. Not only did this help my juvenile statusbut I made sure that it was done where Smelly could eavesdrop. It still feels like yesterday, and I glow warmly with the memory.
"Not only does it workbut I'll show you just how! Come with me to Ming's Multistore!"
"Can we, Jimmycan we really?"
"You can. But not in a bunch. Drift over there a few at a time and stand where you can watch the Get-Stuffed counter. Be there at 1500 hours and you will really see something!"
Something far better than they could possibly have imagined. I dismissed them and watched the Head's office. As soon as Smelly went through the door I nipped down and broke into his locker.
It worked like a charm. I take some pride in this since it was the first criminal scenario that I prepared for others to take part in. All unsuspecting of course. At the appointed time I drifted up to the candy counter at Ming's, working very hard to ignore the rentaflics, who were working equally hard pretending they weren't watching me. With relaxed motions I placed the book atop the candies and bent to fix my boot fastener.
"Nicked!" the burlier of them shouted, seizing me by the coat collar. "Gotcha!" the other crowed, grabbing up the book.
"What are you doing," I croakedI had to croak because my coat was now pulled tight about my throat as I hung suspended from it. "Thiefgive me back my seven-buck history book that my Mom bought with money earned weaving matts from porcuswine quills!"
"Book?" the great bully sneered. "We know all about this book." He seized the ends and pulled. It opened and the look on his face as the pages flipped over was something sweet to behold.
"I have been framed," I squeaked, opening my coat and dropping free, rubbing at my sore throat. "Framed by the criminal who bragged about using that same technique for his own nefarious ends. He stands there, one Smelly by name. Grab him, guys, before he runs away!"
Smelly could only stand and gape while the ready hands of his peers clutched tight. His schoolbooks fell to the floor and the imitation book burst open and disgorged its contents of Get-Stuffeds upon the floor.
It was beautiful. Tears and recriminations and shouting. A perfect distraction as well. Because this was the day that I field-tested my Mark II Get-Stuffed stuffer. I had worked hard on this device which was built around a silent vacuum pumpwith a tube down my sleeve. I brought the tube end close to the candy bars andzip!the first of them vanished from sight. It ended up in my trousers, or rather inside the hideous plus-fours we were forced to wear as a school uniform. These bagged out and were secured above the ankle by a sturdy elastic band. The candy bar dropped safely into it, to be followed by another and yet another.
Except I couldn't turn the damn thing off. Thank goodness for Smelly's screaming and struggling. All eyes were on him and not me as I struggled with the switch. Meanwhile the pump still pumped and the Get-Stuffeds shot up my sleeve and into my trousers. I turned it off eventually but if anyone had bothered to look my way, why the empty counter and my bulging-legged form would have been a might suspicious. But thankfully no one did. I exited with a rolling gait, as quickly as I could. As I said, a memory I will always cherish.
Which, of course, does not explain why I have now, on my birthday, made the major decision to hold up a bank. And get caught.
The police had finally broken down the door and were swarming in. I raised my hands over my head and prepared to welcome them with warm smiles.
The birthday, that is the final reason. My seventeenth birthday. Becoming seventeen here on Bit O' Heaven is a very important time in a young man's life.
Copyright © 2002 by Harry Harrison
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
One of my happier memories of academic life is of preparing for the AP English exam. The exam had an essay question that could be answered using "any important or notable book written in English." It was one of the rare times that students at my high school had been asked about their opinion or to use their judgement. My teacher explained that any of the books we had been assigned over the course of the year qualified as "notable" but that we were free to choose any book whose merit we were willing to defend. We were all giddy at the prospect of writing on a book we hadn't been forced to read.
Since the question related to satire one of my friends announced that he was going to write on a book by Harry Harrison called "Bill, The Galactic Hero." [book: Bill, the Galactic Hero] It was, he told me, a brilliant book about violence, lies, and human insanity. Harrison had also written some others, he went on to say, but none were anywhere near as good.
The Stainless Steel Rat stories comprise Harrison's other, not as good, books. None of them qualifies as either notable or important, but when I read them I liked them immediately. The prose is bad, indistinguishable from that found in the pulp magazines and "boy's best adventure series" books that have cast a shadow over sci-fi from its inception, but the main character, the Rat himself, is tailor-made for his outcast, awkward, and generally unhappy audience. He's a thief in a sanitized future when crime is all but impossible, criminals having been run out of town by perfected surveillance and security technologies. Like his lonely teenaged male audience he has been squeezed by society to the edge of the room and then further out into the wainscoting. The Rat's world has become cold, hostile and horrifically clean. A stainless steel world, he reasons, requires a stainless steel rat, and thus adapted he undertakes the sort of adventures that remind you that the world may be divided into black hats and white hats but usually such symbolic headwear is little more than a fashion statement. The Rat's the kind of predictably drawn but vaguely likable anti-hero that Moorcock pioneered and Donaldson gave substance to. These aren't great literature, but if you remember what it was like to fight your way around and through the margins of high school society, and you don't insist on taking them too seriously, you may get a kick out of the Rat.
Puts all three of the "earliest" in timeline Stainless Steel Rat's in one edition. I've had trouble with formatting on some anthologies, but this one flows relatively well, although the table of contents, similar to most is not hyperlinked. I doubt you're reading this unless you're a Harrison and/or Stainless Steel Rat fan, looking for some cheap Nook editions like I was. If you're new to Harrison, then welcome aboard. The "science" is a little dated, but then again, it's still futuristic. :) It's action packed (don't try to put reality in your science fiction), and I'd compare Harrison to Heinlein. Good "escape read" and I was hard pressed to rest between volumes as they flowed together so well.