The Stainless Steel Rat for President

by Harry Harrison
Series: Stainless Steel Rat 5
Reviewed date: 2006 Jan 26
Rating: 3
185 pages
cover art

Quote: "If you're holding your breath, why then a day is a long time. But if you are trying to fix an election, then a day is no time at all. And a day was all that we had left.
Quote: "My dear son! I may be a crook but I'm not a criminal."
Quote: "We are here to save these people from being trampled under, not to glory in the trampling ourselves."

The fifth book in Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series is not as good as its predecessors. The plot feels contrived and the action forced, as if it were being written perfunctorily to fill an audience demand rather than because the writer had a story he wanted to tell.

To start with, the plot doesn't fit with Harrison's previous conceptions of Slippery Jim DiGriz's character. The Slippery Jim DiGriz of the previous books would be unlikely to charitably undertake to liberate a planet from a tyrannical dictator. In The Stainless Steel Rat for President, DiGriz runs for President of the planet Paradiso-Aqui, in opposition to the de facto dictator General-President Julio Zapilote.

Of course Zapilote has won 41 consecutive elections by rigging the ballot boxes, but DiGriz figures he can rig the election the other way--for the sake of democracy, of course. And that's where the other character inconsistency crops up: by his own admission in this book (and by his actions in prior books) Jim DiGriz is a "born fascist" and shows little respect for the average man. However, in the book he eloquently and vigorously defends the concept of democracy and one-man, one-vote. Harrison never tries to explain how Jim DiGriz--who has no respect for the abilities and intelligence of the average man--can entrust the average man with the power to vote.

But who reads Stainless Steel Rat books for character development and political philosophy, anyway? Fools, that's who. The rest of us like the books for their actions. In this novel the action feels more than a little bit contrived. Plus, the way Jim DiGriz manages to use the planet's Constitution to void the first election is facile: no dictator worth his salt would agree that the election was void just because the opposition candidate dug up a technicality in the Constitution. (Harrison's proffered explanation that Zapilote had to comply because the galactic authorities were watching the election is insufficient. If the galactic authorities were serious about doing something, they would already have removed Zapilote from power decades ago.)

But overall The Stainless Steel Rat for President was fun enough to read, and rates a three out of five.

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