In Retro Review: The Star Wasps

There's the hint of an idea for a story, but it's not achieved.

The Star Wasps by Robert Moore Williams

Published by Ace Books, Inc., 1963. Paperback of 126 pages at 40¢. 

Note: This is an Ace Double book. It can be flipped over for an additional story, which is Warlord of Kor by Terry Carr.

The cover: An indecipherable green structure that resembles coral dominates the left of this illustration. A spaceship launches from the center, just missing the title that’s in yellow in the upper right. Below the title is the author’s name, with a man underneath running, frozen in place by a yellow light. Across the bottom lies a blonde woman in a red dress. A neat cover, but it has absolutely nothing to do with anything in this story. No credit is given for the artist. Overall grade: C-

The premise: From the first page, “The Super Corporation Building loomed over one hundred and forty stories high, dominating the city of Denver. It was a towering monument, built by slaves who once called themselves men, to the fanatical greed of one man, Erasmus Glock. Johnny Derek set out to smash this well-guarded empire with a small band of brave men and one simple weapon — a little glass sphere. But in setting free the primitive instinct of men for freedom, he loosed a holocaust of alien horrors. For Glock’s retaliation lay in the twinkling blue lights from the sky. And their invisible dance could well be the dance of death for all mankind.” I chose this book for the cover image, so this summary is taking me aback. I wanted aliens attacking, not men trying to free themselves from a human oppressor. I’m concerned. Overall grade: C+

The characters: Johnny Derek is the story’s protagonist and he wants to stop the blue virals from killing people so that he can bring down Glock. His character has that much depth. Erasmus Glock is a “bonafide genius in the field of finances.” He runs the Super Corporation Building and will do all that it takes to retain control of it. He’s retained the services of Hollow, an assassin, to kill Derek. Hollow (what a fantastic name!) is a fun character and could support a novel on his own. Sadly, he’s not given much time. Jennie Fargo is the most attractive young woman Johnny has every seen and she acts as the audience, asking questions that need to be answered as the story advances. Joseph Cotter is the source of the virals causing trouble for society. He’s the typical scientist who took his conclusions too far. R-133 is the first person Johnny encounters and the poor worker can’t get shake what the man said to him before he got to work. He’s the everyman that’s effected by the protagonist. He’s okay, but his job painfully echoes Winston’s in 1984. Blue virals (the Star Wasps of the title) are the antagonists of the book, for when they appear people disappear. Their counters are the Green virals which appear in the book’s climax. Neither is described well making their appearances blasé. These characters are the stock characters one would expect in a pulp novel, but none exhibit traits that make them engaging. Overall grade: D

The settings: Denver, Colorado. 2470. The Super Corporation Building is a massive structure one would expect from a futuristic locale and it’s described well, with R-133’s work space very interesting, as is Glock’s office. Cotter’s laboratory is as one would expect of a scientist working on the down low and it’s where the book’s finale occurs. The locations are serviceable. Overall grade: C+

The action: There’s a chase, a few assassination attempts, and a lot of talking. I expected more action and didn’t get it. Overall grade: D

The conclusion: It’s quick, it’s cosmic, and it’s too neat and tidy. I’m all for happy endings, but this is extremely forced. Overall grade: D

The final line: There’s the hint of an idea in this story, but it’s not achieved. The characters are meant to be archetypes but come off as clichés. This was not an enjoyable read. Overall grade: D+

To read the review of the flip book go to

To see the cover visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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