The Stainless Steel Rat Goes to Hell
Series: Stainless Steel Rat 9
Reviewed date: 2006 Feb 12
Jim's wife Angelina gets kidnapped by a religious cult called the Temple of the Eternal Truth. Jim and his kids, James and Bolivar, bone up on theology and then penetrate the veil of secrecy to uncover the inner machinations of the cult. It is run by Professor Slakey, who has set up temples all around the galaxy, bilking his disciples for vast sums of money.
But worse than that, he actually has the power to send people to Hell or give them a glimpse of Heaven. Jim suspects hypnotism until Slakey sends him to Hell; Jim escapes Hell and enlists the help of Professor Coypu (who you may remember from previous Rat books) who figures out that Heaven and Hell are parallel universes.
Coypu invents a machine that lets Jim go to the other universes, and Jim rescues Angelina, and then they work together to figure out what Slakey is up to: what is he doing with all the money he's squeezing out of his blind followers? (It's pretty obvious, if you think about it, given the religious overtones of the book.)
I can hardly wait for the next Rat novel, which I hear is entitled Harry Harrison Stops Writing Stainless Steel Rat Stories. It's about time. Harrison has run out of ideas, which is why we're subjected to an entire book written about Heaven, Hell, and religion in which Harrison makes very clear to point out that religion is a bunch of superstitious nonsense. This isn't a book, it's a cheap attempt to capitalize on the Stainless Steel Rat brand name while shoveling a secular sermon at readers.
It has a few good moments, but not many. Harry Harrison should have spun the Stainless Steel Rat off as a franchise: hire other writers to tell a few Rat stories, and split the profits. It could breathe some new life into the ailing brand, and it would leave Harrison time to pursue other writing interests.