[[caption-width-right:301:Breaking the rules, and loving it!]]

A SpaceOpera of a different color by Creator/HarryHarrison.

A long time ago, there was a planet called "[[InsignificantLittleBluePlanet Dirt]]" [[FutureImperfect (or something like that)]]. It was there that humanity had its start, and from there they spread out, developing a large number of planets with diverse civilizations and forms of government. With enough wealth, you can enjoy a plethora of luxurious accommodations on various vacation planets. Then again, someday you might find yourself held at gunpoint while the government confiscates your ship and goodies and trucks you off to a short life of back-breaking labor for the good of the local planetary empire. But, hey, you should have read the tourist guide before you landed.

Many people never get as far as space, of course. Many people spend their entire lives planetside, enjoying the kind of cheerfully dull life you could find in hundreds of towns and cities on RealLife Earth at this very moment. Only it's a little more peaceful than ''that'', because, as it turns out, they've managed to stamp out crime.

People no longer open their newspapers to read about murders and bank robberies and various missing persons. See, the government has gotten so good at spotting pre-criminals that they can whisk the kids away early for a little corrective programming, ensuring the safety and continued boredom of the general populace.

James "Slippery Jim" diGriz is one of the few who ever slipped below the radar. He was bored enough to take to crime and smart enough to go uncaught, and he's been pulling off heist after heist as he hones his skills and pads his nest. It's amusing to watch the reaction of the local cops, who don't have enough practice in this sort of thing to be effective. Jim feels pretty good, as he rationalizes to himself that he's really not hurting anyone.

Actually, follow his logic far enough and you realize that in the future world, where the population of all of Dirt is just a drop in the bucket compared to the population of the civilized galaxies, he might be right. So he robs a bank, takes a hundred billion credits or so. The bank loses nothing; the insurance policy kicks in. The insurance company loses nothing; they spread the loss out amongst their trillions upon trillions of customers by raising their rates. The customers, in point of fact, don't lose so much as two cents each, because the sheer number of customers makes the rate increase less than a penny per head. Besides which, Jim provides entertainment for the masses, who get to read about his exploits, and jobs for the police officers, who sorely need the practice. Win-win-win-win-win.

That is, until a heist goes wrong, and Jim finally gets caught. Not by the police -- nor by intergalactic law enforcement. He gets caught by the Special Corps, an organization that uses criminals to catch criminals (headed by Harold Peters Inskipp -- a.k.a. "Inskipp the Uncatchable", formerly the greatest criminal in the galaxy until he was forcibly recruited the same way and eventually became the top guy). See, Jim is a TechnicalPacifist who sincerely believes that it's wrong to kill people (non-lethal violence is fine), including bad guys and people who might be trying to kill ''him''. This puts him head and shoulders above the kind of villains that this organization deals with, who are perfectly willing to kill people, sometimes ''en masse''. And, well, if you need to deal with a mass-murdering supervillain and the local police force isn't even equipped to handle a simple bank robbery, who better to forcibly recruit than the less dangerous sort of criminal?

Jim, who isn't fond of the alternative (and who doesn't like a good lobotomy?), decides to accept the offer, and thus becomes one of the operatives, given various assignments to track down and neutralize dangerous criminals at various locations across the galaxy. His first assignment is to neutralize a FemmeFatale serial killer who [[spoiler:later becomes his wife and gives him twin baby boys]]. Oh, and also, he's about as infuriating to his boss as, well, any rather unconventional main character has ever been to DaChief.

!!''The Stainless Steel Rat'' series contains examples of:

* AbsentAliens: Several of the early books claim humans are the only sentient species. Then, in ''The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You,'' it turns out the far side of the galaxy is inhabited by several dozen extremely unpleasant-looking ones. After some initial strife, they make peace with the humans - and become unimportant for the rest of the series.
* AntiHero: Jim, with comparatively little "Anti" to the "Hero".
* AnvilOnHead: The opening of ''The Stainless Steel Rat'' features diGriz dropping a safe on a policeman who's come to arrest him. (It's not until he's sure he has your attention that he bothers to mention that it's a ''robot'' policeman, and so well-armoured that the safe is not going to do it any serious harm.)
* ArmedBlag: Jim and Angelina keep robbing banks for fun after joining the Special Corps.
* AuthorAppeal: Harry Harrison's protagonists have a tendency to be atheists who evangelize Esperanto.
* BackAlleyDoctor. Jim goes to a Back Alley Doctor to have whole body alteration surgery in ''The Stainless Steel Rat''. Now that's dedication to the art of disguise! Pretty understandable, considering the criminal he's tracking saw right through his more ordinary (but still quite thorough) disguise and shot him nearly to death.
* BatmanGrabsAGun: Jim the TechnicalPacifist does once almost kill a guy, who was a monster and [[spoiler:indirectly responsible for Jim's mentor's death]]. Jim would've gone through with it, if he wasn't knocked out.
* BigBrotherIsWatching: Surveillance is everywhere, and only the most skilled criminal can practice his/her art. See also the planet Cliaand in ''The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge''.
* BoxedCrook:
** The entire premise of the Special Corps.
** In ''The Stainless Steel Rat Sings the Blues'', Jim is caught trying to rob a mint, and secretly spared from execution on condition he undertakes a dangerous secret mission.
* {{Brainwashed}}: In ''The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge'', the Grey Men use a particularly brutal method where they implant false memories of the subject having their hands cut off, in order to shatter their sense of reality.
* BrainwashingForTheGreaterGood: Most people with criminal tendencies are caught and 'treated' early in life. Treated meaning having your personality ''wiped'' and replaced with a state-sanctioned one! For an otherwise humane civilization, this little crime against humanity strikes a jarring note. Angelina has supposedly been implanted with an artificial conscience, but it's not the real mind-wipe: her husband frequently has to restrain her enthusiasm for torture and killing. This is mostly talk however -- when push comes to shove she recoils from the monster she used to be and does not kill. Although [[BerserkButton mess with her family]] and [[MamaBear all bets are off]].
* TheChessmaster: Inskipp, though only in the first novel. Most other times his role is simply that of DaChief.
* ClingyJealousGirl: Jim knows better than to cheat on his well-armed wife. Which doesn't stop her from putting a knife to his throat if he so much as looks sideways at the GirlOfTheWeek. When Jim tries to weasel out of their wedding, she quickly produces a HandCannon from HammerSpace and invites him to reconsider.
* ClockKing: Jim has elements of this when he's planning his heists.
* ComicBookAdaptation: Two of the Stainless Steel Rat novels were adapted into comic form for British serial comic ''2000AD''. The two strips were later released in Graphic Novel format.
* TheConvenientStoreNextDoor: The first book starts with that as the protagonist's latest job. He rents a part of a warehouse. Next building, there is a large amount of seldom checked government supplies. He makes a hole, and sells these supplies with different labels.
* CorruptChurch: ''The Stainless Steel Rat Goes to Hell''
%%* DaysOfFuturePast %%please do not uncomment without providing an example
* DrivingIntoATruck: At the beginning of the first novel Jim diGriz steals an armored car full of money and drives it into a truck to escape the police.
* EarlyInstallmentWeirdness: The first novel refers to Earth in a manner that suggests it's at least known, if not inhabited. Later novels state that the planet is forgotten, and its location can be found in no computer record.
* FakingTheDead: At the climax of ''The Stainless Steel Rat for President'', President diGriz gets assassinated -- but this is all part of the plan, so he can let power devolve to the people on whose behalf he was working, and doesn't have actually stick around being presidential for years.
* FemmeFatale: Angelina in the first novel; in later ones (after her HeelFaceTurn), more of a DarkActionGirl.
%%* FirstPersonSmartass %%please do not uncomment without providing an example
* FutureImperfect: Humanity's original planet is long lost in the mists of history, and nobody knows much about it. They're not even sure about the name; Jim at one point vaguely recalls that it might be "Dirt".
* GargleBlaster: In ''The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted'', Jim somehow procures 400 proof alcohol. That's twice as pure as pure alcohol for the sake of reference. There's also mention made of his indulging in Syrian Panther Sweat, which is banned on most civilized worlds.
* GetIntoJailFree: At both ends of his career.
** In ''A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born'', a young [=DiGriz=] allows himself to get caught in the belief that he'll meet criminal masterminds in prison who'll teach him the art of crime. As it turns out, he only meets the pathetic losers who are dumb enough to be caught.
** In "The Golden Years of the Stainless Steel Rat", the elderly [=DiGriz=] apparently loses his touch and gets arrested and imprisoned. It turns out he's still got it, and let himself get caught as the first step of a plan to bust an old friend out of the prison.
* HeadsOrTails: Summed up nicely:
--> I flipped a coin to decide, and of course won since I had palmed the coin before the toss. It was going to be action.
* HadToComeToPrisonToBeACrook: The Stainless Steel Rat tried to deliberately [[InvokedTrope invoke]] this trope, hoping to learn the tricks of the trade from real criminal minds. Of course, he quickly realizes his mistake: [[spoiler:He won't find any criminal masterminds in prison, because they don't get caught.]]
* HammerSpace: Exactly how ''do'' you conceal a .75 caliber recoilless? Plus the Rat always carries a myriad of miniature escape/burglary/explosive devices in his teeth, fingernails, skin, and who knows where else.
* HandCannon: The Rat's .75 caliber recoilless pistol -- frequently referred to as "That piece of field artillery". Sometimes a 'compact' .50 is mentioned.
* HereditaryRepublic: In ''The Stainless Steel Rat Runs For President'', he urges this on a BlueBlood as a wonderful way to keep the incompetent nobles out of the way.
* HorseOfADifferentColor: The Porcuswine, a product of genetic engineering to survive a harsh environment.
* IdenticalTwinIDTag: Jim's sons James and Bolivar are distinguished only by a small scar behind James's ear, from when Bolivar bit him when they were four.
* IHaveYourWife: This has been tried several times, and is generally a bad idea, because it's a sure way to make Jim angry -- assuming Angelina hasn't already carved up the kidnappers herself.
* KarmicThief: Jim refuses to steal from anyone but rich corporations that are insured against theft, though once he is recruited by the Special Corps, he also turns his skill against various villains.
* KnockoutGas: Both local law enforcement and Slippery Jim use knock-out gas with great abandon, although slightly more realistically than is usual in fiction. Jim makes sure to use nasal filters or a mask to avoid breathing it in himself, it's usually invisible rather than brightly colored, and there are numerous different types, with different effects, speed of action, duration and after-effects.
* LaResistance: The Rat teams up with underground organizations in several novels.
* LostColony:
** ''The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted'' has the third act on a planet inhabited by humans totally forgotten by the rest of the galaxy until a militarized country finds them and decides to conquer them.
** This also turns out to be [[spoiler:the origin of the Grey Men, who assume they were deliberately abandoned on a frozen hell world, explaining their vendetta against the rest of humanity.]]
** Used to justify the AnachronismStew aspects of the series. Many planets are former lost colonies, and haven't caught up with everyone else on a technological level.
* MamaBear: Angelina, for her husband and sons.
* OutlawCouple: To the protagonist and his wife, an extended crime spree is a nice way to spend a honeymoon.
* PapaWolf: Jim, for his wife and sons. And his sons for their parents. Did we mention they are a close family of highly skilled criminals and Special Corps agents?
* TheProfessor: Professor Coypu
* MasterOfDisguise / FullBodyDisguise: In a universe of ubiquitous surveillance and paranoid secret policemen this is a basic survival technique, ranging all the way up to full body surgery.
* PhlebotinumPills: Numerous, this being the future. Among them, a pill to make one instantly sober.
* PlanetOfHats: Planet of Uniforms in the case of Cliaand.
** It appears that planets, back in colonisation days, were claimed by monocultural ethnic groups. Thus a planet occupied by a troll-like alien life form discovers its [[TheTroubles very Irish, Gaelic-speaking former owners are now fighting a guerilla war to kick them out]]. Elsewhere a planet colonised by Spanish-speaking South Americans inevitably becomes a corrupt BananaRepublic ruled by TheGeneralissimo.
* PoliceState: ''The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge'' and ''The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted'' (military dictatorship), while the planet in ''The Stainless Steel Rat For President'' is a BananaRepublic.
* RebelliousSpirit: A pervasive theme is the power of breaking the rules, especially the ones that even rulebreakers follow.
* ShotgunWedding: Jim tries to run off on the pregnant Angelina on the day of their wedding. She's having none of that. Either he goes with her to the altar, or he gets a huge hole blasted in him with her HandCannon. You don't mess with a pregnant woman, especially if she used to be a sociopathic murderer. Of course, once their marriage is entered into the planetary database, the cops are quick on their tail, which means that maybe Jim was right in avoiding a legal marriage.
* ShoutOut: Chojecki's socioeconomic system is very reminiscent of ''Literature/WaldenTwo''.
* ShrinkRay: Used in at least one story to carry large equipment in a suitcase.
* SpacePolice: The Special Corps. Later they discover there's also a [[TimePolice Time Corps]] and a Morality Corps, much to Inskipp's annoyance.
%%* SpaceWestern %%please do not uncomment without providing an example
* StableTimeLoop: The result of all the running around in ''The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World''. He (this is his name, which gets confusing) attacks the Special Corps by eliminating key elements in the past, prompting Jim to travel to 20th century Earth, where he first encounters He and disrupts his operation there. He travels to the time of the Napoleonic Wars, where he kills Napoleon and impersonates him, and Jim travels there and tries to kill him. He escapes and travels to the future, leaving Jim trapped in a collapsing time loop, but not before Jim throws a heavy object and messes up the controls on the time machine, sending He to sometime in our future. Insane as he is, He's memories fade, and pretty much the only thing he keeps is his hatred of Jim. Being functionally immortal, a long time passes, and Jim along with Angelina travels to shortly before Earth's destruction to confront He. At the end, He travels to 20th century Earth...and launches his time war on the Corps. Again, he doesn't get any older, so He just runs around and around the loop while Jim and Angelina go back to their time and get on with their lives. Pretty much a FateWorseThanDeath for He.
* SuicidalPacifism: An entire planet in ''The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted''.
* TakeThat: The books where Jim is conscripted into the military and subjected to all its mindless indignities, bureaucratic inanities and Neanderthal NCO's are Harrison's personal revenge against the United States Marine Corps, in which he was a draftee.
* TechnicalPacifist: Jim is a classic example. He is quite happy to employ non-lethal violence, but he will not ''kill'', either as a criminal or a law-enforcement agent. For Jim, there is no God or afterlife, so ''this life'' is all we get. Which means that to take someone's life is to take everything they have.
* TelepathicSpacemen: The Psimen
* TheFettered. Jim, but see TechnicalPacifist.
* ThickerThanWater: Jim's sons override his scruples on leading them into a life of crime on the grounds that saving their mother from the income tax people is a good cause.
* TimeTravel: ''The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World''
* TheUnfettered: Jim ordinarily maintains a lot of principles (particularly differing from the supposed 'good' government on the subject of mind control). But in ''The Stainless Steel Rat'' he uses chemicals to temporarily become a psychopath, and in ''The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge'' he uses drugs to induce psychotic rage. The sequences are pretty appalling - particularly since EvilFeelsGood until he reverts to sanity.
%%* UnspokenPlanGuarantee %%please do not uncomment without providing an example
* WeWillUseManualLaborInTheFuture. Particularly odd are the scenes of manual labour performed by advanced humanoid robots.
* WhyDontYouJustShootHim: Averted in the first book when Jim tracks down Angelina only to find she's been [[TheHunterBecomesTheHunted lying in wait for him all along]]. Angelina just gives an EvilLaugh and shoots Jim four times in the chest and once in the head without even trying to find out who he is. He survives and tracks her down a second time. Angelina again sees through his disguise, but doesn't kill him because she's hoping he'll realise they're NotSoDifferent.
* {{Zeerust}}: The first novel was written in 1961.