In this monthly series reviewing classic science fiction books, Alan Brown looks at the front lines and frontiers of science fiction; books about soldiers and spacers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.
Can one man stand against an entire planet? You might not think so, until you consider the fact that a tiny wasp can distract a driver and cause him to destroy his vehicle. Many works of fiction center on irregular warfare, as the subject offers myriad opportunities for tension and excitement, and I can’t think of any premise as engaging and entertaining as this one. In portraying many of the tactics of irregular warfare, however, the book also takes us into morally dubious territory—a fact made even more clear in the wake of recent events.
Wasp, written by Eric Frank Russell in 1958, is a classic from science fiction’s golden age. The novel demonstrates the type of havoc that a well-trained agent can unleash behind enemy lines, and illustrates the tactics of irregular warfare in a way that is informative as any textbook. Russell’s voice keeps the narrative interesting and exciting, and it stands as one of his best-remembered works.