The Stainless Steel Rat Series Critical Essays

Harry Harrison


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

DiGriz first appeared in two short stories in Astounding Science-Fiction (1957) that were later developed into the first published novel. Harry Harrison created the character with the intent of making him salable to Hollywood. The connections Harrison made in promoting the idea of a Stainless Steel Rat film led to his novel Make Room! Make Room! (1966) becoming the film Soylent Green (1973).

Harrison brought picaresque adventures into the interplanetary scope of science fiction. DiGriz shares characteristics with then-popular independent antiheroes such as Leslie Charteris’ Simon Templar (“The Saint”) and the James Bond of Ian Fleming’s novels. Harrison expanded the settings of these international adventurers, moving from global crises to intergalactic power plays. Although diGriz moves from planet to planet, most settings are Earthlike worlds, and his adversaries primarily are power-hungry humans rather than alien creatures. Many of the adventures are as much a tongue-in-cheek reworking of terrestrial spy adventures as imaginative visions of the future.

In this largely crimeless future with few professional criminals, diGriz’s oddly antiviolent views are juxtaposed with those of the ruthless tyrants he opposes. He becomes a moral criminal in an uncaring “stainless steel” galaxy. His independent humanism results from his rebellious attitudes toward a society and legal system he finds beneath him. The character follows a long tradition of fictional and real-life characters who play both sides of the law....

(The entire section is 643 words.)