Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stainless Steel

Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat was excellent fun s-f reading, featuring a very likeable and raffish protagonist. James diGriz is a science-fiction Saint (although Harrison is not an abominable writer, unlike Leslie Charteris) or Raffles, with comedic underpinnings.

I liked the fact that it is always his female counterpart/wife who has to get him out of tight spots, although the twist/surprise we're apparently supposed to get from her abilities is a bit, er, patronising - but then these are novels from the sixties/early seventies, so their age gives them somewhat of an out.

As a benchmark, you could consider the depiction of women in the original Star Trek (where the female officers were present but did little to move storylines forward and the main plots revolved around the male characters). Angelina's depiction here is rather progressive in comparison. She is not marginalised into auxillary roles, nor simply love interest or hapless victim. That said, she does not move the story on for herself but tends to follow diGriz's lead, however she is extremely capable and even ruthless in her own right. Some of the sexual/marital attitudes issues are curiously sexist for a Stainless Steel world of the future, but these issues didn't detract from the books for me, just spoke to me of their time.

I'd recommend to anyone who enjoys gadgety, space-shippy science fiction adventure, with a good old dollop of tongue-in-cheek humour.

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