Eric Frank Russell
Orion, 2000 (1958)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
ric Frank Russell's pens
tongue in cheek
tales of strong individualists and this is a prime example. James Mowry is recruited as a
in the war between Terra (superior in technology) and the Sirians (who have a big advantage in numbers). The role requires fluency in Sirian, and a '
shorty who can walk slightly bandy-legged with his ears pinned back and his face dyed purple
'. The job is explained to the unenthusiastic Mowry via a newspaper article describing a nasty auto accident that happened when a driver was distracted by a buzzing wasp.
fter a crash course in sabotage, propaganda, psychological warfare, and weaponry, the reluctant recruit is dropped on Jaimec, ninety-fourth planet of the Sirian Empire. There he stirs up all kinds of trouble amongst the alien populace, while keeping a wary eye open for the dreaded Sirian security force, the
, whom he succeeds in dodging, though with close calls. Mowry begins by dreaming up a mythical organization,
Dirac Angestun Gesept
- the Sirian Freedom Party, appointing himself president, secretary, treasurer and field-director. Then he starts stinging the poor Sirians.
he wasp uses Terran tech - like propaganda stickers activated by water to etch their messages deeply onto glass; selective assassinations of the Nazi-like
, funded by counterfeit currency; ticking parcels containing paper threats along with a couple of real bombs; intensive rumor-mongering of bacteriological warfare; and
which strike nautical fear in enemy merchant vessels. It's a romp of a futuristic spy story, though some of the similarities between Terran terrorism on Sirian worlds and recent events were a little disturbing on re-reading, especially the success of fear tactics against a civilian population.
hat aside, it's an entertaining read, recently re-printed, with a twisty ending that is typical of early SF. Another that I recommend by Russell is
Three To Conquer
- about Earth invasion by parasitic, telepathic aliens - if you can find a copy in libraries or second-hand stores.
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