A Stainless Steel Rat is Born is a prequel to the Stainless Steel Rat series. Jimmy Bolivar diGriz is a smart and ambitious 17-year-old who feels trapped and inhibited on the backward planet of Bit O’ Heaven where his parents are porcuswine farmers. Jim learned early in life that he was clever and unscrupulous enough to take what he wanted from others and, more than anything, he enjoyed planning and carrying out these little escapades. So, while his classmates were drudging through the material that he had already easily mastered, he decided to spend his time learning useful skills like lock-picking and fighting until he was old enough to be sent to the adult penitentiary where, he presumed, he’d meet masterminds like himself who could tutor him in more nefarious skills. That’s why we meet Jimmy robbing a bank and purposely getting caught on his 17th birthday.
Unfortunately, prison is nothing like what Jim was expecting; it’s full of losers. But Jim does pick up one useful scrap of information there: the cleverest criminal in Bit O’ Heaven, The Bishop, has never been caught. Jim knows he must escape prison, find The Bishop, and become his apprentice.
A Stainless Steel Rat is Born is a great addition to the Stainless Steel Rat series. It fills in Jim’s backstory, gives us the origin of his names for himself (“Slippery Jim diGriz” and “The Stainless Steel Rat”) and is just plain entertaining in its own right. It’s a great place to start with the series and can easily be read as a stand-alone novel.
If you’re an audiobook reader, you must try this series on audio. (And if you’re not an audiobook reader, this is a good one to start with — it’s only about 7 hours long). Phil Gigante’s narrations really add to the humor. In this book he starts off with a rather hickish sounding voice for Jimmy — different than the voice he used in the other books. At first I was slightly annoyed and thought it was a mistake, until I realized that over the course of the book he gradually and discreetly morphed the voice into the one I was used to (which I like much better). I see now that he was showing the transition from Jimmy diGriz, son of porcuswine farmers, into The Stainless Steel Rat. Nicely done, Mr. Gigante! —