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5.0 out of 5 stars Gripped me in the late '50s; stunningly relevant today!,
This review is from: Wasp (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. Hence, the precept of this novel as presented at the beginning of the narrative: A wasp buzzing around threateningly in the close, closed quarters of a car traveling a high-speed can cause the driver to lose control, resulting in the death and destruction of relative giants and their huge machine.
"Wasp" is frighteningly close to a workable blueprint for effective terrorism today in most any society on this planet -- especially if there are certain fundamental social conditions at work and certain enabling technologies, chiefly communications-related, in place that can be meaningfully exploited (in addition to being feared by the novel's protagonist).
About the only "criticism" I have relates to the novel's presentation of technology. The author mostly avoided technological traps by simply not going into "the details," and the story suffers nothing for that since the book is mostly about people and governments, and the exploitation of their foibles and fears.
The most technologically "off" element in this novel relates to electronics, particularly communications and, to a lesser degree, computers and "recognition" technology, or the lack thereof. The alien space-faring society's police and military seems pretty much stuck in a 1950's human communications environment where the kind of personal radio communication common with today's police and military is far advanced from that in the novel. I don't really find this deficiency distracting, just amusing. If you read the book and find its technological deficiencies truly distracting, then you have surely missed the essence and relevance of this great novel.
5.0 out of 5 stars Pacific War transferred to a galactic stage,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly gripping and interesting,
By A Customer
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars " A great read, should never go out of print",
I first read this book in early 60s and have reread it a few times since. It is a timeless story of how one man, with some essential supplies, can disrupt a whole world. More importantly to me was that soon after reading it for the first time, I read a review of it in Astoundin magazine. There the reviewer mentioned THE GOOD SOLDIER SCHWEIK and THE REVOLT OF GUNNER ASCH. I found Scweik heavy going but the Revolt of Gunner Asch introduced me to Hans helmuth Kirst. I have been reading Kirst ever since. Apparently, somebody in Germany has recently come out with a trilogy of videos "08/15 Trilogy" which comprises the first three (of four total) Gunner Asch novels: The Revolt of Gunner Asch Forward Gunner Asch The Return Of Gunner Asch. and all this became available to me because Eric Frank Russell wrote the WASP.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest books I've ever read!,
I read this book in the early 60's. I promised myself I would never forget the title so as to read it again as soon as I found a copy. I'm still waiting . I hope it will be available soon and recommend it to all who like interesting books, not just Science Fiction!
5.0 out of 5 stars Bond...space Bond,
Really, this underrated classic is more of a spy story than sci-fi. It deals with Earth having to fight a protracted interstellar war with a humanoid civilization in the Sirian system. Something has to be done to break this near-stalemate, so ne'er-do-well James Mowry gets drafted because he is smaller than the average human and speaks fluent Sirian. The idea is that Mowry do some sabotage and psychological warfare on a Sirian planet. Mowry is really no urbane Bond type--he hangs out in urban areas with a bunch of Bogart/ Cagney hood types--but he manages to use this bunch of hard cases who don't give a damn about patriotism one way or the other as muscle. It's too bad this book is out of print--I've had my Dell edition for almost 40 years.
5.0 out of 5 stars A CLASSIC - BUT THE ABRIDGED VERSION IS BEST,
WASP was probably my first SF novel read, and it along with MISSION OF GRAVITY by Hal Clement hooked me for life. There isn't a lot I can add to the reviews here, other than get the abridged version. Eric Frank Russell had an unfortunate propensity for clumsy and verbose phraseology. All U.S. printings (until recently) have followed the original heavily edited version. It had ~20,000 words pruned, choice phrases like "guzzle guts" and was a far better book for the lost weight. I am not saying to avoid the unabridged version (I have and have read both). But, if you are going for one only, go abridged -- you won't regret it.
4.0 out of 5 stars Stealth and Politics,
Basically he gave the idea, of 1 man making a difference, through non-violent means.
The concept of the Wasp, is to annoy the enemy to the point of distraction. Let them hurt themselves trying to swat the Wasp.
It's like the concept of Aikido, to use the enemies own energies against itself.
I find this to be the progenitor of where Harry Harrison got his idea for the Stainless Steel Rat. At least in my mind.
I only wish there was a sequel to this amazing book, of which i still have a mostly torn copy of. That i will always cherish.
GREAT BOOK! Must have for your own Sci-Fi Classics Collection.
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem,
By A Customer
This rather hard to find little book is a true classic. You'll need to get past the first few paragraphs where it seems that the author is in fact a 14 year-old... but then it grabs you and you won't have a moment's peace until it's read. So read it when you have plenty of free time ahead of you! The SF setting is somewhat irrevelevant in this novel - really it's about subversion and terrorism but the alien world is convincing enough. Russell has some novel ideas. The most amazing thing about this book is that it isn't also a film (unless you know different). It feels like a film. Buy it!
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!,
By A Customer
This fantastic book shows the power of a single person, being used as a "wasp" in hostile territory. The story's hero is a human person masked as a native on the enemy's planet. He is the only human being on the whole planet, so he has to use his brains to fulfill the task of causing as much (mainly moral) damage to the enemy as possible. Although on the firsthand much more brutal than usual for Russell, the novel only carries the message that it is better to use some tricks than to fight over years and losing millions of lives.
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Wasp by Eric Frank Russell (Paperback - 1957)
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