Warning: Don't read this review if you haven't read the first Stainless Steel Rat novel.
Several nights ago I was in a bad mood. I had asked my husband to pick up M&M's while he was at the grocery store because my daughter needed them for a school party the next morning. Due to a bad cell phone connection, he came home with the wrong thing and I didn't discover this until 11 pm, after the closest grocery store was closed. Grumbling and feeling sorry for myself, I got into my car and set out searching for M&Ms.
Fortunately, I had grabbed an audiobook on my way out the door: The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge by Harry Harrison (produced by Brilliance Audio). Within 2 minutes of hitting play, I was smiling and laughing out loud -- a complete mood reversal. It's not just the despicably charming characters of Slippery Jim DiGriz and used-to-be-evil Angelina, but also Phil Gigante's hilarious delivery.
The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge begins with Slippery Jim robbing a bank and Angelina driving the getaway car. Jim is as clever and ingenious as ever, but now he's joined by Angelina -- the evil villainess from the first novel who's supposedly been "fixed" and is now working with Jim for the Special Corps, though they've both escaped and are attempting to return to lives of crime together. Angelina hasn't lost any of her skills and ambition -- she just has a bit of human decency now. Fortunately for the reader, not enough decency that she isn't eager to go along on Jim's crime sprees and help him out of tight spots, even while pregnant. This combination of Angelina's brilliant criminal activity, deadly fighting skills, and sweet wifely and motherly instincts is absurdly amusing. And we're never quite sure if she's really cured of her sociopathic tendencies... Phil Gigante gets her voice just right.
Jim and Angelina end up turning themselves in and Jim gets sent on a dangerous assignment in which he must figure out how the planet Cliaand is conquering other planets. Along the way, he goes undercover as a Cliaand officer (Gigante's Russian accents are so funny here), meets an army of beautiful women, wears transparent clothes, undergoes psychoanalysis (Gigante's got a German accent here), and creates a troop of polite robot butlers who, in Gigante's uppercrust English accent, say things like "Thanking you, Sir" as they throw bombs at the enemy.
The Stainless Steel Rat series, so far, is superb in every way -- the plot is exciting and clever, the writing is tight and colorful, and Jim's voice (it's written in first-person) is endlessly entertaining. Phil Gigante's humorous narration makes it doubly funny. This is definitely a series to read on audio!