Eric Frank Russell is one of my favorite early SF writers. His prose sparkles, and his stories have genuine warmth and humor. His first novels, including Sinister Barrier (1939), Dreadful Sanctuary (1948), and Sentinels from Space (1953), made him instantly popular in the United States and his home country, the UK.
His fifth novel, Wasp (1957), is the story of a human saboteur, sent to the home planet of a hostile race during an interstellar war. All alone, he wages a campaign of terrorism to bring down a vast alien empire.
Like virtually all of Russell’s work, it remained in print for decades. Its first paperback appearance in the US was in February 1959, from Perma Books (above; click for bigger images). It was 170 pages, priced at 35 cents. The cover was by Art Sussman.
Wasp was first published in hardcover by Avalon Books in Nov 1957 (above left, cover by Ric Binkley). It was later serialized in three parts in the UK in New Worlds Science Fiction, starting in March 1958 (above middle, cover by Brian Lewis.) The first UK paperback edition was from Panther in March 1963 (above right, cover by Richard Powers).
Wasp was kept in print all through the 60s, 70s, and even the 80s — an amazing accomplishment in a field where novels typically remained in print for a matter of months. The editions shown here are only a few of the multiple reprintings.
Bantam Books picked it up in June 1971 (below left, cover by Gene Szafran), followed by Methuen in the UK in February 1986 (below middle, cover by Terry Oakes), and Del Rey (below right, cover by Barclay Shaw), also in February 1986.
Most recently, Wasp was selected by Gollancz for their highly-regarded SF Masterworks series, starting in April 2000. It has had several editions from Gollancz, including January 2002 (below left, cover by Jim Burns), and May 2013 (below right, cover by Dominic Harman.)
Sadly, Wasp is no longer in print as a standalone novel, but there are so many editions that it’s not hard to get hold of a copy cheaply. Pollinger in Print published a digital edition in January 15, 2009.
For modern readers interested in finding a copy, your best bet is Entities: The Selected Novels of Eric Frank Russell, still in print in hardcover from NESFA Press. It contains five novels (Sentinels From Space, Wasp, Sinister Barrier, Next of Kin, and Call Him Dead), a smattering of short fiction, and an introduction by Jack L. Chalker. The cover art is by Bob Eggleton.
Our most recent Eric Frank Russell coverage includes:
Somewhere a Voice
Six Worlds Yonder / The Space Willies
Men, Martians, and Machines
Sentinels of Space
It’s A Small World After All
Creatures From Beyond, edited by Terry Carr
Robert Bloch on J. Francis McComas, Eric Frank Russell, and Leigh Brackett
See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.