Posts Tagged ‘1951 Sci Fi Novel’

The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein ~ 1951. This edition: Signet, circa 1975. Paperback. 175 pages.

Flashback to the school library rotating paperback rack!

I first read Robert A. Heinlein as a teen in the 1970s. I found some of his more extreme libertarian and offhandedly sexist views a bit problematic way back then, but kept reading because of the storytelling – it was pretty darned good for sci-fi for its time.

How does it travel to 2022?

Hmm. Still problematic. Mostly for his patronizingly chauvinistic views towards women. His ideal female? Built, beautiful, sexually willing, good in the kitchen and very, very quiet.

Misogynistic attitudes possibly put aside – though I’ve met a disturbingly large number of these folks, both male and female, who have vintage 1950s’-type views on the equality of the sexes – today’s “libertarians” seem to have ideological views right on par with Heinlein’s, so I guess you might say he was ahead of his time – or a product of his time? – in regards to his frequently trotted out diatribes on the dangers of socialism.

But on to the story. (Remembering that it was written in 1951, so the action is set some six decades in the future.)

It’s 2007. Flying saucer sightings have recently been reported all over the U.S.A., and one is discovered to be on the ground in the country outside Des Moines, Iowa. Initial radio reports from the sceneĀ  indicate that the occupants are alive and … then … silence. When transmission resumes, it’s all very, “Ha ha ha! Just a couple of teenagers pulling off an elaborate hoax! Nothing to see here, folks, nothing to see…”

Scenting danger, a trio of state security secret agents heads for the site of the mystery spaceship, and discovers something exceedingly unsettling. Strange, mollusc-like creatures are parasitizing humans, nestling along their spines and controlling their thoughts and actions. The slugs (as they are soon nicknamed by the humans still not under the influence) seem to be able to replicate quickly, and are very quick to utilize what they are learning from their hosts to further their invasion.

Planetary disaster! The aliens must be stopped! (Save the President!) After some chapters of non-stop action – including a week off for passionate lovemaking between Secret Agents Number Two (a young man of almost superhuman strategy, fighting and survival skills) and Secret Agent Number Three (his female counterpart, with the added bonus of being built, beautiful, willing, silent, etcetera) the weak spot of the slug-creatures is discovered, and invasion mop-up begins.

This plot sounds as goofy as all get out, and it really is, but there is some solid writing for the genre in there too. Heinlein’s consistent popularity through the decades – most of his novels are still in print and selling very well indeed – argues for some twinkles of gold amidst the dross.

This isn’t really much of a review, and I really should head off to bed – morning comes so soon! – so you might want to head over to E. Magill’s excellent post here. Magill also uses the term “problematic”, and his “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” assessments mirror my own, in regards to The Puppet Masters and the other Heinlein works he mentions.

And the reviews on Goodreads are decidedly rewarding.

When Heinlein is good, he is very good, but when he is bad….well, you know the rest of that one.

My rating: Let’s call it a pretty solid 7/10.

Because the parts which are good are very good. And Heinlein’s frequently very funny. And, yes, there’s a nod to personal nostalgia in this rating, too.

Oh – and that paperback cover art by Gene Szafran – that’s a glorious 10/10. Someone should make the Szafran Heinlein covers (there were a few) into posters. Maybe someone has? Good stuff.


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