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4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,795 ratings  ·  174 reviews
The war has raged for nearly a year and Earth desperately needs an edge to overcome the Sirian Empire's huge advantage in personnel and equipment. That's where James Mowry comes in. Intensively trained, his appearance surgically altered, Mowry secretly lands on one of the Empire's planets. His mission: to sap morale, cause mayhem, tie up resources, and wage a one-man war ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published December 31st 2001 by Gollancz (first published January 1st 1957)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,795 ratings  ·  174 reviews

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Nov 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever had a wasp fly into your car while you’re driving? Have you swerved trying to swat the creature, and nearly careened into a tree or lamppost, killing yourself and your passengers? This idea - that a tiny insect can kill a carload of people and cause thousands of dollars in damage - is the central analogy in Eric Frank Russell’s Wasp. In Russell’s story one lone man wages war like a wasp, using cunning and surprise to destroy vast amounts of material, paralyze a society and even ...more
Feb 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
This surprisingly unknown Golden Age SF novel features a human agent who is recruited for a daring psy-ops mission against the Sirians, a thinly disguised version of WW II Japan. When he arrives for his briefing, the agent's controller starts by telling him a story. Four fully-grown humans are driving along in a car. A tiny wasp, weighing only a few grams, flies in through the window, and stings one of the people. It manages to create so much panic and confusion that they drive off the road and ...more
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
There seems to exist some very real confusion as to just what English sci-fi author Eric Frank Russell did during WW2. Some sources would have us believe that he worked for British Intelligence during the war years, while others claim that he was merely an RAF radio operator and mechanic. Whatever the real story may be, the writer put his war experiences to good use over a decade later, when he wrote what would be his sixth novel out of an eventual 10, "Wasp." Initially released as an Avalon ...more
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"The weight of a wasp is under half an ounce. Compared with a human being its size is minute, its strength negligible. Its sole armament is a tiny syringe holding a drop of irritant, formic acid, and in this case it didn't even use it. Nevertheless it killed four big men and converted a large, powerful car into a heap of scrap."

"I see the point," agreed Mowry, "but where do I come in?"

"Right here," said Wolf. "We want you to become a wasp"

In the war against the alien Sirian empire our hero,
Apr 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any sf fan, any "dirty tricks" fan
Summary: EF Russell's best-known book, Wasp is an excellently told story of one man working undercover in wartime to build enemy paranoia and confusion in preparation to a (less-bloody) invasion. Funny and clever idea- and story-SF with little character development and an "alien" culture clearly based on the Axis powers.

Eric Frank Russell worked in British military intelligence during WWII, in a group that dreamt up strange tricks to counter Axis intelligence. As one of the most inventive minds
4.5 stars. A classic (and controversial) SF tale focusing on the use of "terrorism" as a way to bring about the downfall of an evil alien government. Well written and a lot of fun. Recommended!!
Read this if you want to know how terrorism 'works'. And mind you, Eric Frank Russell was one crafty author. His aliens are more like humans than not. Just to avoid any controversy, Russell created a far away planet (Planet Jaimec) on which our protagonist (or is he?) must practice his 'skills' of terrorism for the whole humanity.

Now let me just leave you with one of the gems from the novel (don't worry, it won't spoil anything, the dialogue takes place in the first chapter itself):

Aug 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Great book. Loved this quote:
"It looked as if he was doomed to become a hero from sheer lack of courage to be a coward."
Dec 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Sometimes, when you read too much about Hubbard and Scientologists being creepy, you have to clink out and read some Golden Age SF.

This one's actually a lot of fun: Terrans (why never "earth"?) are at war with the Sirians, who are technologically behind but make that up in bigger numbers (gee, I wonder on which political conflict of the 1950s this is based). A human is sent to one of the outer Sirian planets to stir things up. The protagonist is sent with unlimited money and advanced tech to
Jun 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wpww, favorites
"Yet he forced a government to start jumping around like fleas on a hot griddle. It shows that in given conditions, action and reaction can be ridiculously out of proportion. By doing insignificant things in suitable circumstances one can obtain results monstrously in excess of the effort."

"We can never gain victory Ailey by postponing defeat."

"You'll be crammed to the gills with everything likely to be useful to you: weapons, explosives, sabotage, propaganda, psychological warfare, map reading,
Mar 03, 2010 rated it liked it
I'm in the mood for science fiction, so I got this classic on my Kindle. Wasp meets the basic standard for enjoyable reading: a coherent story that kept me engaged. I bet this book affects today's readers very differently than the Cold War audience for which it was published. I wouldn't even classify this as science fiction. The story is about a guy chosen by his government (Earth) to be a lone terrorist against the enemy (an alien planet). As long as you accept that the aliens are truly aliens, ...more
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
In the future, Earth is at war with Sirian Empire, a fascist police state. A human secret agent, James Mowry, after being recruited and trained as a subversive is sent to planet Jaimec. His mission is to cause domestic chaos among the Sirians, foment unrest in order to faciliate a Terran attack. Singlehandedly, Mowry creates the illusion of a revolutionary organization, Dirac Angestan Gesept. The "live long" valediction is a wonderful foreshadowing for Star Trek's "live long and prosper."
Alan Smith
Mar 12, 2014 rated it liked it
"It would be a very long time before anyone, especially in America, was ready for a terrorist hero" points out Lisa Tuttle in her introduction to this 1957 novel, as an explanation as to why Neil Gaiman never got around to making a movie of it despite purchasing the rights. And one can see her point. This is a novel one feels very guilty about enjoying.

The story is the basic wartime espionage plot. Lone secret agent is secretly dropped in the middle of enemy territory with instructions to cause
Aug 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
1957 sci-fi book that is short (about 170 pages) and very entertaining. Some sci-fi from the "Golden Age" can be a little dated here and there but this book is not dated at all. It feels current especially because of the subject matter of a terrorist, or "wasp," from earth sent to some distant planet in a far future to wage a one man war of terror on a militaristic people.

This is a fun book full of suspense, moments of humor and action.
Thomas Spones
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the grand-daddy of humourous sci-fi.
You get tranported onto an alien world, strangely reminiscent of 1950s soviet russia/east germany.
You' ll witness James Mowry, our reluctant hero, work as a wasp = as a secret agent/propagandist, bringing the bureaucratic dictatorship down.
The storyline moves quickly, and the humourous description of situations and characters will keep you smiling as you discover how Mowry keeps escaping the sinister secret police.
A true gem of 1950 sci-fi.
Debby Kean
Jul 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: brilliant, sf
This gem is very clever. Described as a "terrorist's handbook " it makes use of the power of rumour and confusion. It deserves to be much better known.
Alexander Temerev
OK, I was expecting a lot, but I was not impressed. It is a poorly written piece of sci-fi about one man’s guerilla war, and most of the ideas there were not that original even back in 1958. Still, there is some useful stuff too. 3.5/5.
Mike Stone,
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Underrated Masterpiece by Underrated Author

"Wasp" is yet another of that enormous sf library which I first encountered round about age eleven - and find myself still going back to at 71. 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
Steve Haywood
I'd never heard of the book or the author before receiving this as a Christmas present so I didn't know what to expect, except that it was one of the Gollancz 'SF Masterworks' series which gives some indication of quality. In this novel, there is an interstellar war going on between humanity (Terrans) and the alien Sirians. This war has been going on a long time over many star systems. All of that is background scene setting that has almost nothing to do with the story.

James Mowry has signed up
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi-fantasy
A sci-fi novel from 1957. The plot: it's somewhere in the future and Earth is in a war against the Sirian Federation. Earth has decided to drop one disguised operative on each Sirian planet to conduct, essentially, a terrorist campaign: acts of sabotage to make the Sirian authorities waste resources policing their own people and hunting down a nonexistent terrorist organization. The novel follows one such operative, James Mowry, as he distributes subversive stickers; conducts rumor campaigns and ...more
Jonathan Palfrey
I think some reviewers take this book too seriously. Eric Frank Russell wrote humorous sf stories in which clever humans ran rings around stupid but very human-like aliens (or, sometimes, around stupid humans). His stories are quite entertaining if you like that kind of thing, although they're rather dated by now: the author lived from 1905 to 1978 and never knew the Internet, mobile phones, or laptop computers. Most of his writing was done when computers were non-existent, or very few and very ...more
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookbuddies, kindle
Another one I would never have thought to pick up unless I'd been 'told' to read it.
As with The Origin of Evil and Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, read for the same challenge, there are ways in which this story has dated, although the attitude to women was not as big a problem for me as in the other two books … but mainly because there aren’t really any in it! Apart from that absence, the other thing that makes it clearly older science fiction is just how little surgery the hero needs to make
Feb 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, read-in-2013
Wasp is a rousing 1950s scifi adventure! ...with *strangely* out of place and interesting psychological ponderings. Specifically, it's a great study of how masses of people *actually* behave when there's a great big looming terrorist threat out there.

A lone agent, whose body structure kind of matches that of Sirians, an alien race humanity is waging war against, is sent to infiltrate the Sirian totalitarian society and cause trouble. He is a wasp - a saboteur, who, like a tiny wasp that can
Julian Meynell
This book is meant to be Russell's finest work. In many ways it is very typical in style of 1950's science fiction. It concerns an alien who infiltrates a planet to pass as a local and undermine them so they lose in a war to the aliens. That is a common enough premises, but the wrinkle is that here the alien is a human who goes undercover amongst the aliens.

The biggest problem is the aliens themselves. There society is exactly the same in every way as Hitler's Germany and the aliens are
Pseudonymous d'Elder
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
— "Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot" by Alexander

The funniest thing in this edition of Wasp was the Terry Pratchett blurb on the cover that said, "I can't imagine a funnier terrorist handbook." I suppose that by terrorist handbook standards it is hilarious, but there are only a couple of chuckles in it, and not a single giggle nor guffaw.

Ralph Carlson
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great sf classic.
Excellent thriller centered on the covert operative sent on a hostile planet in order to ensure enemy forces are tied up in chasing ghosts instead of preparing for the actual invasion.

I especially like the end, reminds me a lot of what happens to the bearer of armor in the novel Armor (view spoiler)
Aug 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the very first SF books I ever read. I loved it then and reread it many times as a teen. I wanted to introduce my grandsons to some of the Golden Age authors and as we were looking at my collection, we spotted this one. I wasn't sure if the book would hold up over time, especially as the subject of terrorism holds new feelings since this was written.

We talked about the background and the boys loved the book as did I on what has to be a 15th read ;-) I was surprised at how fresh
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fiction
Last year a read a short story by this author called "Waitabits". I kept looking for more by him and finally realized it was all published in the mid-fifties. So, I checked the library and got this one. I was not disappointed. I really enjoyed it. It has a "Lost Boys" feel to the ending. By which I mean that once you get there, it feels like the whole book was a set up for the punch line. This isn't to say that the journey wasn't enjoyable. It very much was. A human agent dropped alone behind ...more
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found Wasp to be a quick read, not overly taxing. This, however, should not imply that the story is thin or lacking. The text is gifted with the small details and subtle complexities that made for a book that I couldn’t put down.

I would read a whole series of these, a trilogy, watch a Netflix original or HBO show of this. Wasp goes firmly in my paddock of books that I would use to gently introduce someone to the SCI-FI genre.

My only criticism would be that it is was written a while ago, so
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SF Masterworks Group: Wasp by Eric Frank Russell 1 5 Apr 26, 2013 08:07AM  

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Eric Frank Russell was a British author best known for his science fiction novels and short stories. Much of his work was first published in the United States, in John W. Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction and other pulp magazines. Russell also wrote horror fiction for Weird Tales, and non-fiction articles on Fortean topics. A few of his stories were published under pseudonyms, of which Duncan ...more
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“Damn! - I'd rather walk into something of my own accord than to be frogmarched into it."
"So it says here in the file. James Mowry, twenty-six, restless and pigheaded. Can be trusted to do anything at all - provided the alternative is worse."
"You sound like my father. Did he tell you that?"
"The Service does not reveal its sources of information.”
“For months we have been making triumphant retreats before a demoralized enemy who is advancing in utter disorder.” 2 likes
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