A Stainless Steel Rat is Born by Harry Harrison (Stainless Steel Rat, Book 6)
Read by Phil Gigante
Length: 7 Hrs 16 Mins
Genre: Science Fiction
Quick Thoughts: A Stainless Steel Rat is Born had some great moments early in the novel, but in the end suffered by a sudden change of pace that did little to advance our understanding of the development of the Stainless Steel Rat.
Ah, the prequel. For many long running series, in which the author is looking to shake things up, do not be surprised to find the prequel. We have met our main character or characters, we have seen them in the current state, with allusions to how they became what they are, but do we ever really know the whole story. Not unless the author takes us on that ride using the vehicle known as the prequel. I understand why many authors like doing this, it gives there creative chops a chance to examine their character from a whole new angle. I also understand why fans enjoy it. Who doesn’t love a good origins story? I mean there would be no Batman without the murder of his parents, and no Superman without the destruction of Krypton. If a persons adult life is highly influenced by nature and nurture, don’t we need to examine the Nurture side to truly understand the character. How can we truly understand Slippery Jim D’Griz, thief, confidence man, and over the top Galactic hero unless Harry Harrison takes us back to his days living in boredom on the old Porcuswine farm, on the planet Bit O’Heaven. A Stainless Steel Rat is Born is the tale of how little Jimmy D’Griz become the Stainless Steel Rat.
A Stainless Steel Rat is Born has quite a different feel than the previous novels in the series. Jim D’Griz is not the cocksure and headstrong character that you find in later editions. Throughout this tale his over confidence is peppered with a lot of self doubt. I found the early parts of this novel to be quite fascinating, from his attempts to find training in the criminal life by getting himself arrested and put in jail, to his struggle to find an elusive master thief to become his mentor. It all was an interesting look at how the young D’Griz realized his potential for mayhem. While the humor wasn’t as rapid fire and the pace, while fast, wasn’t as frantic as the past, you still felt that you were getting the classic Slippery Jim tale but with a more intimate feel. In fact, I found the moment where his mentor The Bishop taught Slippery Jim his philosophy on being an outsider and how their criminal ways were a service to the community to be quite endearing, allowing you to understand his future justifications for his many heists. Yet, as the story progressed taking Jim and The Bishop to the feudal world of Spiovente, things started to get muddled down, and surprisingly, for this series, boring. I personally felt that that part of the novel did little to advance what I thought the purpose of a prequel novel was, to learn how the character became what he was. If Harrison had ended the tale with Jim and the Bishop escaping Bit O’Heaven, I probably would have been pleased, but the tale of Jim slogging on campaign under the thumb of a corrupt Capo, really seemed out of place in the usually fast paced series. A Stainless Steel Rat is Born had some great moments early in the novel, but in the end suffered by a sudden change of pace that did little to advance our understanding of the development of the Stainless Steel Rat.
As always Phil Gigante handled the narration, giving Jim a younger, fresher, yet shakier voice that fit well with the production. He found the right tone for Jim’s fleeting moments of self doubt and captured Jim pulling himself from the cusp of despair perfectly. While most Stainless Steel Rat novels have lots of strange alien characters for Gigante to play with, this novel lacked the diversity of vocal opportunities that the pervious editions had. In fact, the lack of any truly significant female characters was disappointing, and lessened the chance for Gigante to perform some of the back and forth dialogue that he excels at. Yet, despite my issues with the novel, it is definitely worth a listen to hear Gigante’s performance, and experience the early parts of the novel which are quite enjoyable.