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Encyclopedia > The Puppet Masters
The Puppet Masters

First edition cover
Author Robert A. Heinlein
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Science fiction novel
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date 1951
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN NA

In 1951, Robert A. Heinlein published a science fiction novel, The Puppet Masters, in which American secret agents battle parasitic invaders from outer space. The novel was originally serialised in Galaxy Science Fiction (September, October, November 1951). Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Robert Anson Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of hard science fiction. ... For other uses, see Country (disambiguation). ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... Some notable science fiction novels, in alphabetical order by title: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke 334 by Thomas M. Disch An Age by Brian Aldiss The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton The Atrocity Exhibition by J.G. Ballard... A publisher is a person or entity which engages in the act of publishing. ... Doubleday is one of the largest book publishing companies in the world. ... See also: 1950 in literature, other events of 1951, 1952 in literature, list of years in literature. ... A hardcover (or hardback or hardbound) book is bound with rigid protective covers (typically of cardboard covered with cloth or heavy paper) and a stitched spine. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... “ISBN” redirects here. ... Year 1951 (MCMLI) was a common year starting on Monday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Robert Anson Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of hard science fiction. ... Science fiction is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology, or both, upon society and persons as individuals. ... The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein in Galaxy, Sept. ...


Thematically, the book evokes a sense of paranoia later captured in the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which had a similar premise. Heinlein's novel repeatedly makes explicit the analogy between the mind-controlling parasites and the Communist Russians, echoing the emerging Red Scare in the U.S. In literature (as well as many works of nonfiction), a theme is the main idea of the story, or the message the author is conveying. ... For other senses of this word, see paranoia (disambiguation). ... Year 1956 (MCMLVI) was a leap year starting on Sunday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a 1956 science fiction film. ... This article is about communism as a form of society and as a political movement. ... A 1947 comic book published by the Catechetical Guild Educational Society warning of the dangers of a Communist takeover. ...

Contents

Plot introduction

This novel is Heinlein's only foray into the "alien invasion" genre within science fiction. His approach to the story is different from most preceding invasion stories. It does not present the "helpless humanity" angle typical of stories from The War of the Worlds onwards, nor does it simply dress up conventional horror themes in the trappings of science fiction. While the invaders are horrifying enough, the focus of the plot is very much the practical business of, on the one hand, the aliens mounting the invasion, and on the other, the efforts of free humans to defeat it. Science fiction is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology, or both, upon society and persons as individuals. ... The War of the Worlds (1898), by H. G. Wells, is an early science fiction novel (or novella) which describes an invasion of England by aliens from Mars. ...


The setting is the early 21st century (the first scene is in 2005). There had been a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the West which left both sides battered but unbroken, and following the hot war they just went back to the Cold War. Nuclear War is a card game designed by Douglas Malewicki, and originally published in 1966. ... For other uses, see Cold War (disambiguation). ...


Social customs have changed somewhat, in a way typical for Heinlein's fiction (i.e. having become more liberal, such as marriage contracts being possible with fixed terms etc) and rayguns and personal flying cars are commonplace. Space stations exist and colonies have been established on the planet Venus. Adjectives: Venusian or (rarely) Cytherean Atmosphere Surface pressure: 9. ...


Space technology is far more advanced than in the actual first decade of the 21st century. For example, in the last scene, a space warship is sent on a twelve-year trip to Titan, with not only life-support for a large crew but also enough armaments - presumably nuclear - to all by itslef confront an entire world. However, Communications satellites have not been thought of, and TV broadcasts are still limited to line-of-sight, as they were at the time of writing. U.S. military MILSTAR communications satellite A communications satellite (sometimes abbreviated to comsat) is an artificial satellite stationed in space for the purposes of telecommunications. ...


This has a crucial importance for the plot. A big country like the United States is divided into numerous "blocks" which receive TV broadcasts from their neighbors and relay them onwards. When the invaders seize some of these "blocks", they effecively contol all communications within it and can isolate its inhabitants from the outside world, deny the central government any access to them and consolidate contol at their leisure. In a world possesing Communications Satellites (not to mention the Internet) the invasion could not have proceeded the way Heinlin describes it.


Plot summary

The novel begins with this conundrum:

Were they truly intelligent? By themselves, that is? I don't know and I don't know how we can ever find out...
If they were not truly intelligent, I hope I never live to see us tangle with anything at all like them which is truly intelligent. I know who will lose. Me. You. The so-called human race.

"Sam" is an agent in an intelligence organization within the United States government, so secret it reports only to the President, and is entirely unknown to anyone else. He is superbly trained, equipped with a built-in communicator he calls a "skull phone" as well as a number of ways to commit suicide if the need arises.


Called in by "the Old Man", his boss and the head of the organization, they go to investigate the report of a flying saucer landing in Iowa after several other agents fail to report back. With them, is another agent named "Mary", a ravishingly beautiful redhead. Sam is informed that her life is only slightly less precious than the Old Man's, and that he (Sam) is the most expendable. UFO can mean: Unidentified flying object United Future Organization, a Japanese-Brazilian electronic jazz band UFO, the rock band that previously featured Michael Schenker UFO, the Gerry Anderson TV series United Farmers of Ontario, a political party that formed the government in Ontario from 1919 to 1923 U.F.O... Official language(s) English Capital Des Moines Largest city Des Moines Area  Ranked 26th  - Total 56,272 sq mi (145,743 km²)  - Width 310 miles (500 km)  - Length 199 miles (320 km)  - % water 0. ...


In Iowa, they discover that the people are being brought under the mental control of repulsive, slug-like creatures that attach to their backs, just below the neck. Detaching one slug from its host, they seal it in a film canister and bring it back to headquarters in Washington, D.C. By the time they get there though, it is a stinking mess, and they are unable to convince the President that there is an invasion. For other uses, see Washington, D.C. (disambiguation). ...


Sam eventually leads a small team back to Iowa. They inadvertently succeed in capturing a live slug, as one of their number becomes "hagridden" without them realizing it. However, Mary can spot infected men, because they don't react to her beauty as normal men do, so the infected agent is unmasked, subdued and confined. The slug escapes by transferring to another person, and eventually to Sam himself. He immediately disappears and begins operating as an enemy agent.


Meanwhile, the invasion continues to expand. Coded telephone calls to Iowa result in the arrival of containers through the mail. These contain more slugs, which are used to recruit more humans. Gradually they infect more and more important people, especially the members of exclusive clubs frequented by politicians. Before the Old Man tracks Sam down and captures him, they have recruited the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, a man who has access to the President himself. John W. Snow, the current Secretary of the Treasury. ...


By the time Sam recovers in hospital, anyone fully dressed is suspect. The Old Man wants someone to "wear" the slug so it can be interrogated. Sam cannot bear the idea, but when Mary volunteers, he gives in and does it himself. He is completely aware of himself when possessed, but totally committed to the slugs' cause. The slug dies under torture from electric shocks, but in the process Sam learns that they come from Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. Titan (, from Ancient Greek Τῑτάν) or Saturn VI is the largest moon of Saturn and the only moon known to have a dense atmosphere. ... This article is about the planet. ...


Thoroughly disgusted by the treatment he has received, Sam is ready to quit. He is at first furious with Mary for entrapping him, and then with the Old Man, when he learns that his boss tricked Mary into it. At this point, it is revealed that the Old Man is Sam's father.


Eventually the politicians face reality. From Minnesota to Louisiana, the center of the country has been taken over. On a solo mission to Kansas City, Sam is shocked to discover that the slugs are not limited by the numbers that can arrive from Titan. Instead of taking over key people, they have absorbed the entire human population of the occupied territory. They must be able to reproduce rapidly. The invasion is not an occupying force – it is an epidemic! He returns to HQ too late to stop a meticulously planned military counterinvasion of the heartland; it vanishes without trace, as soldiers enter apparently "peaceful" cities, only to fall victim to possession, after which they lure their comrades in with fake communications. Nickname: Location in Jackson, Clay, Platte, and Cass Counties in the state of Missouri. ...


They find that slugs are capable of fissioning in two fairly quickly. The number of infected humans must now be so large that any military action would kill tens of millions. Also, the aliens now understand sexual responses, and can no longer be detected by their absence. Binary fission Binary fission is the form of asexual reproduction in single-celled organisms by which one cell divides into two cells of the same size, used by most prokaryotes. ...


The problem having reached a scale beyond their ability to influence it, Sam and Mary are given leave. By this time, they have fallen in love and get married before going to Sam's bolt-hole in the Adirondack Mountains. Their idyll is interrupted by a slug which rides a local pet cat, and then transfers to Mary. Sam has to subdue her in a fight between two trained killers, in which he has to keep her alive and she is going all out to kill him. The fight is complicated by the fact that this slug is not merely an amorphous mass but protected by a leathery covering-he cannot just crush it. He only succeeds by pushing Mary on to a hot fire to kill the slug, badly burning both of them in the process. Stream on the hike to the top of Ampersand Mountain The Adirondack mountain range is located in the northeastern part of New York that runs through Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, St. ...


Returning to HQ for treatment, they find that a new law requires everyone to be virtually naked. It is enforced by vigilantes who shoot first and confirm later. Even Mary's bandages have to come off before they can move freely.


Sam begins to believe that the slugs have him marked for repossession. They can communicate by "direct conference", where their hosts sit back to back and the slugs partially merge. A network of such interactions could spread his description rapidly throughout the population of invaders, who knew how valuable he is. Some scientists even speculate that the slugs are really just one organism in many bodies.


For their part, the slugs drop all pretenses and openly wage war on the states to their east and west. Where human hosts cannot go, they use animals such as dogs, horses and even elephants.


Patched up, Sam and Mary go with the Old Man to investigate a saucer which crash-landed in Mississippi. Inside they encounter the slugs' hosts from Titan, small elf-like creatures, who died when Earth's air entered the ship. There are also tanks containing humans in suspended animation. Mary has a mental breakdown when she enters the ship. It activates long-suppressed memories from when she was a child in a Venus colony which was taken over by slugs. She herself spent years in one of the tanks. The takeover failed for an unknown reason, and Mary survived a disease which killed her slug. This article is about the U.S. state. ... Suspended animation is the slowing of life processes by external means without termination. ...


The Old Man has planned all this to discover the nature of the disease. Sam objects to having Mary used in this way and starts taking over the investigation. They discover that the disease is "Nine-day Fever", which is almost 100% fatal if untreated. However, they find that it kills slugs faster than humans. It might just be possible to spread the fever among the slugs using "direct conference", and then treat as many humans as possible before they die. The Old Man springs a surprise on Sam. He always knew that Sam would be ready to replace him one day, and would show it by bucking the Old Man's authority. From now on Sam is in charge, official titles notwithstanding.


Time is short – diseases erupt in the infected areas, as the slugs neglect hygiene and often drive their hosts until they starve. Outbreaks of plague in the Communist countries suggest that they were taken over even before the center of the USA.


The counterattack begins. Releasing animals with infected slugs into enemy territory, they wait for the epidemic to break out. Days pass, and then calls start coming in from desperate people whose slugs have died. Hundreds of thousands of agents, Sam and the Old Man among them, parachute in to treat victims with drug-dispensing guns. Just when the battle seems won, the Old Man is possessed by one of the few healthy slugs and kidnaps Sam, intending to take them both into hiding to stage a new invasion. Sam watches in horror as the Old Man's slug begins dividing so he too can be possessed. Despite being tied up, Sam is able to crash their flyer into the sea, killing the slug and, apparently, his father.


In the final section, Sam writes in a journal before embarking with Mary on a ship which will take the battle to its source, Titan. The Old Man recovered from his injuries, and remains on Earth. The slugs will be a problem for years to come, having infected too many parts of the Earth to root out easily, but they will never be able to take over.


Main characters

Sam, born Elihu Nivens, is the classic Heinlein hero, multi-talented, independent, fiercely loyal to friends and an implacable enemy to foes. He is thirtyish, but has changed appearance so many times even he has doubts as to how he originally looked.


Mary, born Allucquere in a religious commune on Venus, is Heinlein's classic heroine. She is tall, red-headed, hard-nosed and brilliant. Sam describes her as having the "real redheaded saurian bony structure to her skull". She can carry a small arsenal of weapons despite having no apparent place to conceal them. Her hard exterior conceals psychological scars from the encounter with the slugs as a child. Only the Old Man knows all the truth about her, thanks to the deep hypnotic analysis that all agents have to undergo.


The Old Man, born Andrew Nivens, represents the third of Heinlein's favorite types of character, the "wise, grumpy old man". He is the first in the line that includes Jubal Harshaw, Professor Bernardo de la Paz, Johann Sebastian Bach Smith, and the later life of Lazarus Long. He is the head of a top secret government agency that he wishes did not have to exist, doing his job reluctantly because nobody else would do it properly. He has been waiting for Sam to take over by usurping his authority. Only then will he be satisfied that Sam is ready. Jubal Harshaw is a fictional character featured in Stranger in a Strange Land, a novel by Robert A. Heinlein. ... Spoiler warning: Lazarus Long is a fictional character featured in a number of science fiction novels by Robert A. Heinlein. ...


Closing scene

The story ends with Sam and Mary preparing to embark on the military spaceship Avenger, about to launch a 12 year voyage to Titan. Evoking Heinlein's subsequent Starship Troopers, Sam is For other uses, see Starship Troopers (disambiguation). ...

… a combat trooper, as is every one of us, from chaplain to cook…

and closes with this stirring, jingoistic declaration: Ten Thousand Miles From Tip to Tip, an 1898 political cartoon depicting the extension of the United States dominion Jingoism is chauvinistic patriotism, usually associated with a War Hawk political stance. ...

Puppet masters — the free men are coming to kill you!
Death and Destruction!

Alternate version

Heinlein's original version of the novel was 96,000 words, and was cut to about 60,000 words for both the 1951 book version and the serialization in Galaxy. For the Galaxy version, editor H.L. Gold also did extensive rewriting, to which Heinlein strenuously objected with only partial success. In 1990, two years after Heinlein's death, an expanded version was published with the consent of his widow, Virginia Heinlein. This edition contained material that had been cut from the original published version, because the book was deemed to be too long and controversial for the market in 1951. The uncut version was more risqué in 1951 than it was nearly 40 years later. An uncut version of Stranger in a Strange Land was also released around the same time. Although ISBN numbers are not supposed to be reused for different editions, the publisher used ISBN 0345330145 for both a 1986 mass market paperback edition of the shortened version and the mass market paperback edition of the long version, which is the one presently in print. The versions can be distinguished by the 1986 or 1990 date on the copyright page, and by text in the long version on p. 1 reading "With the Soviets..." Year 1990 (MCMXC) was a common year starting on Monday (link displays the 1990 Gregorian calendar). ... Robert and Virginia Heinlein in Tahiti, 1980. ... For other uses, see Stranger in a Strange Land (disambiguation). ...


Inter-racial message

In Chapter XXVII, Heinlein recounts in passing the names of the crew of an amphibious tank, killed while fighting the invaders: "The tank was commanded by Ensign Gilbert Calhoun of Knoxville; with him were Powerman 2/c Floernce Berzowski and a gunner named Booker T.W. Johnson". Nickname: Location within the U.S. State of Tennessee. ...


This detailed choice of names (for characters very marginal for the overall plot) was clearly designed to carry a message: the commander is a white southerner with the family name of John C. Calhoun, a prominent 19th Century advocate of slavery; the gunner is black, named for Booker T. Washington; and the powerman has a typical Polish American name - all of them fighting together, dying toghether heroically and in death providing the main characters with the chance to gather vital information leading to the final defeat of the invaders. John Caldwell Calhoun (March 18, 1782 – March 31, 1850) was a leading United States Southern politician and political philosopher from South Carolina during the first half of the 19th century, at the center of the foreign policy and financial disputes of his age and best known as a spokesman for... Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915) was an American educator, author and leader of the African American community. ... Polish-American refers to American citizens of Polish descent. ...


Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The Brain Eaters, a 1958 film directed by Bruno VeSota, bore a number of similarities to Heinlein's novel. Heinlein sued the producers for plagiarism. The case was settled out of court. The Brain Eaters is a 1958 science fiction horror film about alien parasites who land in a small Illinois town and are bent on taking over the world. ... For other uses, see Plagiarism (disambiguation). ...


The theme of the novel is echoed in Operation: Annihilate!, the last episode of the first season of Star Trek: The Original Series in 1967. Operation: Annihilate! is the last of the first season episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. ... The starship Enterprise as it appeared on Star Trek Star Trek is a culturally significant science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry in the 1960s. ...


The novel was adapted, with some plot and character changes, into the screenplay for a 1994 film of the same name starring Donald Sutherland. The film was not successful with either the critics or the public. (Sutherland also starred in the remade Invasion of the Body Snatchers, another tale of aliens taking over humans.) Sample from a screenplay, showing dialogue and action descriptions. ... The Puppet Masters is a 1994 science fiction film, adapted from Robert A. Heinleins novel of the same title, in which a trio of American government agents attempts to thwart a covert invasion of Earth by mind-controlling alien parasites. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a 1978 science fiction film based on the novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney. ...


External links


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