The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted, by Harry Harrison
Five out of five stars
Slippery Jim diGriz is engaged in another adventure that stays true to the manner of his previous exploits in that he is a criminal with a good side and there is a great deal of meaningful social commentary.
In this case, Jim is determined to avenge the death of his crime mentor, The Bishop. The trail leads him to the nation of Nevenkebla, ruled by a strong military based on a state of emergency that has been in place so long that no one recalls why it was implemented in the first place. All males are subject to being conscripted and it is truly a state within an army.
Being male and within the age limits, Jim ends up in the army, part of a powerful force that is about to invade and conquer the most peaceful of planets. One where there is no army or even a police force. In his attempts to escape his fate, Jim has taken the position of an officer in the invading army, so he is determined to avoid casualties on both sides.
The story is basically an indictment of the military mind, both in how it is ignorant and inflexible while always looking for enemies to justify their existence. It is humorous and the satire is effective, for it is based on the military-industrial complex run to an extreme conclusion. Where a war with dangerous enemies must be created in order to keep the military leaders and their cronies in power. As is the case with the best social satire, it is based on a great deal of truth.