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Literature / Wasp (1957)

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Sallana is the first.
The list is long.
Dirac Angestun Gesept.

Wasp is a 1957 Science Fiction spy thriller novel by Eric Frank Russell.

In the future, Earth is engaged in a war with the alien Sirian Empire. The Terrans have the advantage of superior technology, but the Sirians have vastly greater resources and manpower. With the war at an impasse, Terrans need a way to tip the scales way into their favor, and bring the Sirians down for good.

Enter James Mowry, who is given an offer he can't refuse: he will lend his skills and talents to the Terran cause and become a "wasp", a lone saboteur whose task is to bring one of the many Sirian planetary governments into chaos and give the Terrans an opportunity to attack. Mowry is given extensive training, disguised as a Sirian and sent to the planet Jaimec. With ample resources at his disposal, he proceeds with the plan, a great part of which is faking the existence of a revolutionary organization, the Dirac Angestun Gesept ("Sirian Freedom Party") to tie up the army and the Sirian State Sec, Kaitempi, with defending themselves against an imaginary enemy. But while the plan is going well, the government of Jaimec is slowly homing in on Mowry's person, and things are getting increasingly riskier.

The example list is long:

  • Agent Provocateur: James Mowry's role.
  • Asshole Victim: Mowry kills two agents of the Kaitempi, the Sirian State Sec known for their sadism and brutality.
  • Bad Guy Bar: The Café Susun.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Used by Mowry to great effect. Half of his schemes work on the basis "act as if you were in charge, and nobody will question you". For example, he gets past a military cordon without an exit permit and without being asked too many questions by virtue of being disguised as a Military Intelligence officer and speaking with complete confidence. In another case he manages to plant fake wire-tapping devices on rooftops in full view of numerous bystanders, simply by doing so "openly and with quiet confidence."
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Some characters are deeply immoral, but certain of Mowry's actions are morally gray, such as when he booby-traps two civilian merchant ships, implicitly causing their crews' deaths.
  • Chromosome Casting: An extreme example. No women are ever mentioned in the novel, even as background characters.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Mowry and a couple of hired thugs disguise themselves as Military Intelligence and Kaitempi in order to break an ally out of jail.
  • Enemies List: Invoked. After every kill, the "Dirac Angestun Gesept" sends out a message where they claim responsibility and state that "the list is long."
  • Follow That Car: A variant. Mowry doesn't outright tell the taxi driver to "follow that car" to avoid drawing suspicion to himself. Instead he claims that he's unable to exactly name where he's heading, but he remembers how to get there, so if the driver would just please follow the directions that Mowry will give during the journey...
  • Guile Hero: Mowry relies on his wits and his ability to manipulate people and act unsuspicious.
  • Kick the Dog: Sagramatholou's first on-page action is to beat up an old man and kick him while he's down. This grants him Asshole Victim status once he dies by Mowry's hand.
  • La RĂ©sistance: Mowry's primary task is to make it appear as if La RĂ©sistance exists in the form of Dirac Angestun Gesept (the Sirian Freedom Party) in order to distract the government and the State Sec with fighting a nonexistent enemy.
  • Modern Stasis: For a planet settled by an interplanetary alien empire from the future, Jaimec's technological level is pretty much on par with 1950s Earth. It might be a tad justified, because Sirians are stated to be technologically inferior, but still.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: Sirians call humans "Spakum", which means "bed bug". Humans return the favor by referring to them as "blowflies" (because of their blue bottoms.)
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Mowry has a choice—either to become a wasp, or get conscripted into the regular army.
  • Older Than They Think: The book has been described as a "handbook for terrorists", but the techniques used would be very familiar to "dirty tricks" units operating in Nazi-occupied Europe during WW2. Note that the Wasps operate in advance of a military invasion. Attempts to use similar disruption techniques against communist countries during the early Cold War led to inevitable failure once the Secret Police became organized and the Soviet military made it clear they would use force against any serious insurgency.
  • One-Word Title
  • Pardon My Klingon: The Sirian insult "soko", which apparently means something analogous to "bastard".
  • Planet Terra: Earth is called "Terra" and humans are "Terrans".
  • Propaganda Machine: The Sirian empire covers up their military failures and regularly claims spectacular victories over the Terran fleet. The Sirian citizens find it rather hard to believe, though, especially thanks to the "wasps" undermining their morale.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: The Sirians are very similar to humans, their most striking feature being their purple skin, a "bow-legged gait", and a number of other minor differences. This allows Mowry to pass as a Sirian without suspicions. It also helps (and the primary reason he was recruited) that his family used to live on the Sirian homeworld for a number of years before hostilities arose, so he knows their language and customs (one of the plot points is his inability to hide his homeworld accent on a remote, backwater planet).
  • Spider-Sense: One of the things that Mowry is taught: if you ever feel an inexplicable sense of dread, treat it seriously and run, because it usually means that they're onto you. (It's speculated that this is actually subconscious telepathy, sensing the enemy agents' mental focus on catching him.) It saves Mowry's life at least once, making him move to a different apartament just before his current one is raided.
  • Translation Convention: All conversations in Sirian are in English, but a number of Sirian slang terms remain (the swearword "soko", "yar" and "nar" which mean yes and no, and the Verbal Tic "hi?")
  • Verbal Tic: Sirians have a tendency to occasionally add "hi?" at the end of questions, especially when irritated or menacing.
  • You Got Murder: One of Mowry's tactics is to send packages to several officials, which contain a loudly ticking mechanism and a message saying "This package could have killed you". He later sends another batch which looks and sounds exactly the same on the outside... except this time the bombs are real.

Alternative Title(s): Wasp