The Stainless Steel Rat

stainless steel rat

James Bolivar DiGriz, alias ‘Slippery Jim’ and ‘The Stainless Steel Rat,’ is the fictional hero of a series of humorous science fiction novels written by Harry Harrison. He is a futuristic con man, thief and all-round rascal. He is charming and quick-witted, a master of disguise and martial arts, an accomplished bank robber, an expert on breaking and entering, and (perhaps most usefully) a skilled liar. A master of self-rationalization, the Rat frequently justifies his crimes by arguing that he is providing society with entertainment; and besides which, he only steals from institutions which have insurance coverage. He displays a strong morality, albeit in a much more restricted sense than is traditional. (For example, he will happily steal, but deplores killing.)

The character was introduced in Harrison’s short story, ‘The Stainless Steel Rat,’ which was first published in 1957 in ‘Astounding’ magazine. Like other characters created by Harrison, the Rat is a speaker of Esperanto and advocates atheism. From the original publisher’s blurb: ‘…We must be as stealthy as rats in the wainscoting of their society. It was easier in the old days, of course, and society had more rats when the rules were looser, just as old wooden buildings have more rats than concrete buildings. But there are rats in the building now as well. Now that society is all ferrocrete and stainless steel there are fewer gaps in the joints. It takes a very smart rat indeed to find these openings. Only a stainless steel rat can be at home in this environment…’

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