[[quoteright:301:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/rat1_7996.jpg]]
[[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 tapped to become the Special Corps commander). 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.

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

* AbsentAliens: Right up until one book introduces them by force. Most of them are slimy StarfishAliens.
* 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.)
* 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!
* 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 practise his/her art. See also the planet Cliaand in ''The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge''.
* BoxedCrook
* {{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 civilisation, 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 marriage, she quickly produces a HandCannon from HammerSpace and invites him to reconsider.
* ClockKing
* 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 room, 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
* 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.
* FakingTheDead
* FemmeFatale: Angelina in the first novel; in later ones (after her HeelFaceTurn), more of a DarkActionGirl.
* FirstPersonSmartass
* FutureImperfect
* 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 calibre 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 calibre 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
* IdenticalTwinIDTag
* IHaveYourWife
* 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 coloured, 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
* 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 I 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
* PlanetOfHats: Planet of Uniforms in the case of Cliaand.
* 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.
* 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
* SuicidalPacifism: An entire planet in ''The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted''.
* 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
* TimeTravel: ''The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World''
* UnspokenPlanGuarantee
* 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.

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