a review by Nalini Haynes
Slippery Jim Degris (the Stainless Steel Rat) and his wife, Angelina, are enjoying life on Moolaplenty until Jim’s cousin Elmo appears with a ship load of refugees and porcuswine (a genetically modified porcupine and pig cross breed). Angelina insists on helping them, much to Jim’s dismay. Jim purchases a space ship in which they promptly embark on an interstellar journey hampered by sabotage.
They journey to a number of different planets on their way to Mechanistria (an obscure Bladerunner movie reference), the intended future home of the rural cousins and their porcuswine. Along the way they encounter a couple of worlds with racial conflict, including one world where gamma radiation has turned a number of the inhabitants green. Spoofs feature heavily, flavouring the narrative.
Cultural references abound including satirising the global financial crisis and inventing a novel new system to ensure bankers do not cause another such crisis.
Inskipp and the Special Corps barely receive a mention. Of the DiGriz twins, James DiGriz appears only briefly. Bolivar didn’t receive a mention.
The Stainless Steel Rat Returns was written in the style of previous Rat books, but our hero seems to have slowed down in his old age. Jim just did not seem to have that anti-hero outrageous zest for life. Returns is part Stainless Steel Rat and part Time for the Stars by Heinlein, but it lacked the best of both in my opinion. This book is the series’ equivalent of something like Shrek 4; enjoyable but not as good as the early novels (or in Shrek’s case, Shrek 1 and 2; Shrek 3 does not exist).
NOTE: I started reading the Stainless Steel Rat books when I was in primary school; as the Rat is a much-beloved anti-hero of my childhood and teen years, I am not objective.
This article was previously published in Dark Matter issue 3, April 2011, and predated on this website to reflect the original publication date.