2011 August 03 • Wednesday
Here's a book I just read. The front and back covers describe it pretty well.
One of the things I like about the front cover is that it uses "singlehanded", not "singlehandedly". This is a point of grammar that has haunted me ever since I stumbled across a reference to it in Kingsley Amis's The King's English: A Guide to Modern Usage: "Some illiteracies are presented in the name of literacy, or at least of regularity and common sense. This is a popular one just now. Those who like to make words longer and more polysyllabic have not noticed or do not care that single-handed is already an adverb as well as an adjective …. When can we expect to see quitely? Altogetherly? What nextly?".
I also like that there is no space before the em-dash, but we'll save that for another day.
The first line of Wasp is "He ambled into the room, sat in the indicated chair, and said nothing".
It's a surprisingly chaste book, without even a trace of sex or romance. In fact, there may not be more than one or two female characters, and they are walk-on parts.
At its best Wasp is a kind of sci-fi Mission: Impossible and slightly reminiscent of Rogue in Space and What Mad Universe, both by Fredric Brown.
The tone is mostly ironic. The planet of Jaimec is a more or less Soviet-style dictatorship, without a single admirable person, so the wasp's task is never morally complicated. Our Sirian enemies are shown to be disposable at best, vile at worst.
It moves very quickly and does a good job of impressing the reader with the constant fear and tension experienced by the main character.
The idea behind the book is rather timely, concerning a single terrorist who weakens a superpower simply by freaking it out and causing it to spend much of its vast resources on simple criminal acts.