I knew nothing about this book until I noticed it a few months ago in the upcoming SF Masterworks releases for this year. Written in 1957, this is golden era SF, a relatively brief novel that is all about the 'Big Idea'. It may be set on another planet but it has WWII and the Cold War written all over it. Characterisation takes a back seat as Russell paints a picture of a society living in fear and being manipulated by the spreading of rumour and discord. In a very loose way, parts of it reminded me of the tone of Alone In Berlin, as the central protagonist, James Mowry, surreptitiously posts letters and leaves seditious stickers on shop windows, constantly living in fear of discovery.
The title of Wasp is illustrated right at the start of the story, as Mowry's new employer tells him of how a wasp killed four people and wrecked a car just by flying through a window and distracting the driver. This is what Mowry is expected to do in enemy territory, and soon word of a rebel movement is spreading across the planet, and security forces are rounding up supposed members. As I say, there isn't much in the way of characterisation, and the dialogue is functional, although the whole narrative is awash with a sly wit which is something I find is very indicative of golden era SF.
Perhaps the story's biggest success is the way in which it made me as a reader question my own sympathies. On several occasions, as I was worried for Mowry as he made a skin-of-his-teeth escape from Sirian police, I realised that I was effectively rooting for a terrorist. Apparently Neil Gaiman had optioned the movie rights to the novel but stopped work on the screenplay when 9/11 happened.