Sinister religions, missing physicists, super strings and retarded entropy; it's all in a day's work for Slippery Jim DiGriz, the Stainless Steel Rat, the Universe's greatest ever thief and con artist. But this time the stakes are rather higher than even Slippery Jim is used to. His wife Angelina has disappeared and he has nothing to go on except a pool of blood and a severed hand (formerly belonging to a physicist of stellar repute) - and the fact that she has expressed an interest in The Temple of Eternal Truth, a cult offering a sneak peek at heaven - for a price.
But there's a job to do and the Stainless Steel Rat is the man to do it. After all, the devil makes work for idle hands...
In a distant future, with human civilization spread across the stars, Slippery Jim DiGriz, the Stainless Steel Rat, has flourished, first as a classically noble outlaw, then on the side of the law as a member of the elite Special Corps. When his beloved wife, Angelina, vanishes in the Temple of Eternal Truth, both love and duty drive the Rat to find out what happened. Rescuing his wife is easy enough; solving the rest of the mystery requires the help of Angelina, both their sons, several other Special Corps operatives and a company of Space Marines (going into at least one battle armed with nothing but 20-pound salamis). The villain is one Justice Slakey, a physicist who has solved the secret of traveling among multiple universes and replicating himself, and who is using these new powers to create a transuranic element that stops time and thereby confers immortality. If the Rat's long-running adventures (begun in 1961, with The Stainless Steel Rat) had ever been intended to be more than lightweight entertainment, the adolescent sexism and casual acceptance of the romantic myth of the noble outlaw might have long since become offensive. But as it stands, the novel offers fast action, abundant (if sometimes forced) humor, swarms of weird concepts and, for fans of the Rat, a welcome return (after The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted, 1987) of what is probably Harrison's (King and Emperor, Forecasts, June 24) most popular series.