I remember my first introduction to the works of Harry Harrison. I was in high school, getting into a heavy science fiction groove, working my way through some of the classics. A friend, Ken Rice, tossed me a copy of “The Stainless Steel Rat”, a collection of the stories about Slippery Jim diGriz, a criminal mastermind with an ethical bent.
I was hooked. The story reaches out and grabs your attention from the first page. A common thread through all of Harry’s writing.
I read all the Stainless Steel Rat stories (years later I learned that the parts were all stories published in the pulp Sci Fi magazines of the 40’s and 50’s)
Harry Harrison also wrote long form fiction, with examples being West of Eden, Make Room! make Room!, and the Hammer and the Cross trilogy. Respectable efforts, and worthy reads, West of Eden is one of my favorites of the Harrison library. A twist on planetary development, what if the Triassic extinction event didn’t happen? Would the boss species on the planet be reptiles? Would they have developed intelligence, science, and technology? A gripping tale.
I guess one of the defining themes by Harrison, one that endears him to me, is his subtle (and not so subtle) slap at authority. Whereas Heinlein wrote thinly veiled treatises to promote service in the armed forces, Harrison took the contrarian view. Bill the Galactic Hero was his counterbalance to the recruitment poster-like Heinlein book, “Starship Troopers”. Heck the entire Stainless Steel Rat collection was about nibbling at the edges of civilized behavior. Harry Harrison had that honed to a fine art.
Right now, on my Kindle, I am reading the Harry Harrison Megapack. A great introduction to his works, and at $0.99 it is a fabulous value to boot. You get a smattering of his short stories, two “book length” stories (Deathworld 1 and Deathworld 2), and a great feel for his style. Grab your copy today!