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Wasp Paperback – 1957


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Paperback, 1957

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Permabooks (1957)
  • ASIN: B002J1ELT4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Format: Paperback
"Wasp" is yet another of that enormous sf library which I first encountered round about age eleven - and find myself still going back to half a century on. Hope that says something about the books rather than about me. Be that as it may, it is a list to which the late Eric Frank Russell has contributed more than his fair share.

When things military come into Russell's tales, they tend to draw upon his personal experience from WW2, and "Wasp" is no exception. Based on proposals from Russell's time with British Intelligence in the Pacific theatre, it is the story of one man against an Empire - a solitary agent sent into the heart of enemy territory to cause chaos and mayhem out of all proportion to his resources.

James Mowry is the typical Russell hero, a solitary type not over-fond of authority, but who would, in his own words "rather walk into something than be frogmarched into it" and will, if absolutely cornered, acknowledge that some kinds of authority are a good deal nastier than others. He finds himself cordially invited to take part in just such a conflict to "defend the bad against the worse", between Terra and the Sirian Combine, a futuristic version of the Japanese Empire of 1942, which it resembles right down to the name of its secret police. He is dropped in (surgically disguised to resemble a Sirian) entirely on his ownsome, his assignment being to create, single-handed, the appearance of a powerful resistance movement. This he does to spectacular effect, causing the enemy to tie up whole shiploads of troops and agents to suppress a movement that in fact is only one man.

There is room for a quibble or two.
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Format: Paperback
As a teenaged devotee of Sci-Fi in the late 50's, this was one of the first of a select list of books of any genre that impacted my life. I didn't fully understand why this was so then; I only knew it was special, even tremendously relevant at some fundamental level. At the time, yes, it completely entertained me with its action and its sardonic and irreverent narrative. Beyond that, the precepts of this novel created an unease in my mind that remained with me over the years. Full comprehension followed with a little more life experience and a better understanding of humanity and our history. Now this book not only entertains and intrigues, but frightens as well
"Wasp" is a portrayal of how devastating a single, well-equipped terrorist can be to a society (especially a technology-based one). Though the society targeted in this novel is (humanoid) alien and the terrorist a human patriot (albeit not entirely willing) passing as an alien with the help of some surgical modifications, it is entirely believable that the author drew upon human social conditions, especially our foibles and weaknesses, as the basis for this alien society.
Using an insidious "monkey wrench" approach, one individual (suborning marginal elements of the enemy society for use as unwitting accomplices) spreads dissention and disinformation and fear, and so distracts the enemy police and military that the result is the creation of an environment in which the society can be more easily subdued with an overt military invasion.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Since I first read it (and Russell's other brilliant books such as Men, Martians and Machines and Three to Conquer) in my early teens, I have regarded Wasp as one of the true SF classics. It ranks with Bester's The Demolished Man and Tiger! Tiger!, as well as the best of Clarke and Heinlein, although its sardonic tone has more in common with Robert Sheckley.
Although set in a future a few centuries ahead, when Earth is at war with the Sirian Combine, Wasp is directly transplanted from conventional warfare of the Second World War era. Indeed, I don't know why it took so long to dawn on me that the Sirians are analogues of the Japanese, while the noble Earthmen are essentially 1950s Americans. Oh sure, the Sirians are purple instead of yellow - but they are short, bandy-legged, and fanatical. To clinch it, their dreaded secret police is called the Kaitempi: compare the actual Japanese Kampeitei.
The Sirians have a great advantage in numbers, but the Earthmen are smarter. How to make the most of their quicker wits and superior technology? One way is to drop secret agents behind enemy lines to sow confusion, dissension and destruction. The result is dramatic, convincing and (in parts) riotously funny.
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By A Customer on April 10 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book when I was eleven or so and have spent the rest of my reading life in search of something that fascinated me more. Tolkien's was the only fiction that may have done so, but it is, of course, nothing like Wasp.
WASP is a short, simply written book, but it has some quality that makes people mad for it. I think it is the sardonic omniscient voice that adds so much to the flavor of WASP: the voice of the Author himself.
A new edition was published not long ago that was completely unabridged. I felt the slightly abridged version read better (It's always good to cut out the fancy talk.). But I may just be used to the same slightly shorter edition most people have read.
If you want a guaranteed fascinating read (and be swept away on wings of reading enjoyment!), buy this book now. Be forewarned, however, that some might say it kind of glorifies terrorism.
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