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The Puppet Masters (Baen Science Fiction) Mass Market Paperback – July 27, 2010
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About the Author
Robert A. Heinlein was the greatest science fiction writer who ever lived. His novels have been translated into every literate language on the globe—over 25 million Heinlein books are in print in this country alone. For five decades, young readers of science fiction discovered Heinlein, then gone on to voraciously devour every Heinlein book they can get their hands on. His now-legendary Stranger in a Strange Land was the first hardcover bestseller by a science fiction writer. From 1975 on, every new Heinlein novel made the New York Times best-seller list and shipped a million copies, including The Number of the Beast, Friday, Job: A Comedy of Justice, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. In a career spanning half a century, he wrote over forty books, and four of his novels won Hugo Awards, an unequalled record for almost four decades. For the last three generations of readers, Heinlein is science fiction.
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Three themes seem intertwined in this touching work. . .
One, how can/should 'authority' (husband, boss, president, scientist) use its power to help and not hurt?
Two, how can/should each individual decide when to submit to authority and when to resist?
Three, how is understanding found? When and how combine facts/data into wisdom? Who decides?
These questions addressed throughout with taste, discernment; so smoothly, so enjoyably, that reader wants more!
For example - What is needed to reach past facts to wisdom?
''His unique gift was the ability to reason logically with unfamiliar, hard-to-believe facts as easily as with the commonplace. Not much, eh? I have never met anyone else who could do it wholeheartedly. Most minds stall dead when faced with facts which conflict with basic beliefs;
"I-just-can't-believe-it" is all one word to highbrows and dimwits alike.''
For example, on the choise of freedom vs security. . .
"We come," I went on, "to bring you—"
"To bring us what?"
"To bring you peace," I blurted out. The Old Man snorted.
" 'Peace'," I went on, "and contentment—and the joy of—of surrender."
"Let me get this," the Old Man said thoughtfully.
"You are promising the human race that, if we will just surrender to your kind, you will take care of us and make us happy. Right?"
"Exactly!" The Old Man studied me for a long moment, looking, not at my face,
He spat upon the floor.
"You know," he said slowly, "me and my kind, we have often been offered that bargain, though maybe not on such a grand scale. It never worked out worth a damn."
The challenge of scientific authority arises this way.
Sam's wife has been willing interviewed under drugs to probe her memory. Nevertheless, the results have been concealed from her. Sam confronts the doctors . . .
"There was not time for that. We had to use rough methods for quick results. I'm not sure that I can authorize the subject to see the records."
Hazelhurst put in, "I agree with you. Doctor."
"Damn it, nobody asked you to authorize anything and you haven't got any authority in the matter. Those records were snitched right out of my wife's head and they belong to her. I'm sick of you people trying to play God. I don't like it in a slug and I don't like it any better in a human being. She'll make up her own mind whether or not she wants to see them and whether or not I or anybody else will see them. Now ask her!"
Steelton said, "Mrs. Nivens, do you wish to see your records?"
Mary answered, "Yes, Doctor, I'd like very much to see them."
This demand for personal dignity is the key action that leads to winning the war. Lesson? Personal rights are more than just a feeling, they are a principle that have long range benefits.
This kindle edition includes both a forward and an afterword. Both interesting. The afterword notes . . .
''Being free was never easy. Our oldest account of freed slaves tells us of their sitting by their fires in the desert and lamenting the lost fleshpots of Egypt, when they had eaten well in captivity and oppression.''
(I first read this 40 years ago. Reread from time-to-time. I always liked the story and the characters. I did not understand why. Now (maybe) I can see the abstract principles Heinlein is presenting. Means more to me now than before.)
(For a scholars analysis on choosing freedom vs security, see ''The Death of Humanity: and the Case for Life'', by Richard Weikart)
Beyond the tired plot line, the characters were just bland and dated. The dialogue seemed especially horrible when it came to men/women interactions. Think of Beaver's mom and dad. Except much, much worse. I don't blame the author for this. For ANY of this. It's just what he felt was right for the times (early 1950's) and for his career. The book is considered a sci-fi masterpiece by many. I'm saying there are better Heinlein books out there. He was a prolific and talented author and I look forward to reading more.
The Puppet Masters reminded me of an old detective show with bad acting. A lot of older shows seem to be overacted and dramatic and also really simple at the same time. It's hard to explain, but I always felt like there was little subtlety and mystery and reading between the lines in those kinds of shows. It also reminds me of a terrible B movie with a great plot but the acting is as bad as the script, which is terrible. And The Puppet Masters is a simple, straightforward read that left a lot to be desired. The explanations were simple, to the point, and it made for a boring read unless the actual events unfolding were interesting.
The introduction made it clear that The Puppet Masters was not a literary read by any means, but I still hoped for a good read. While I haven't seen any of the movies, I'm led to believe this might be one of those stories where the movie better. After all, the plot is spectacular. It was just the writing that made it a dull read for me. The Puppet Masters has elements that make it a perfect science fiction novel and most of those elements are still built upon today, such as aliens, the taking over of the human race, and mind control. It's the rest of the story that is lacking, such as dialogue, world building, character building, etc. I won't begin to get into the issues regarding the female characters and the male relationships surrounding her because I realize this book is dated.
Overall, I would recommend this book to lovers of science fiction. The plot has been done plenty of times since the original publication and ripped off in a few other stories, but I'm glad I read the original. The concept was great and one I could appreciate and made up for the rest of the book.