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The Puppet Masters
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message 1: by Greg, Muad'Dib (last edited May 11, 2018 02:59AM) (new) - added it

Greg | 812 comments Mod
This is the discussion thread for the first book of the month, or group read, for May. Please remember to use the spoiler tags where necessary.

The other group read topics for this month (High-Rise and The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume 1) can be found here and here, respectively.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments There is so much to discuss here. Mild spoilers!!!

First, it is obvious that this book has inspired so many other books and films, everything from the Invasion of the Body Snatchers films to the Borgs in Star Trek and the TV series Falling Skies (and probably a lot after it). All these films about aliens taking over the body of humans, against their will.

While I do prefer Invasion of the Body Snatchers versions of the idea (especially the 78 version which is one of my all time favorite film) I had a bast with this book. Robert A. Heinlein loves to push the limits and this book is no exception. Here the main revolutionary idea is that nudity is good and normal and if we just dropped clothes all together then we would stop seeing nakedness as something strange. Remember, this is in 1951!

There are however a couple of things I did have trouble with. The book can be read as a support for McCarthyism. There is an obvious connection between the aliens and the Russians. Searching on the Internet I found that Heinlein (at least half-heartedly) defend McCarthy. That came as no surprise. In the book the people who are controlled by the aliens and the dangerous idea of anti individualism are not human and should therefore be killed without mercy. Not that the protagonist is consistent in this view. He will often try to save the people instead of killing them and takes no pleasure in the killing. So in a way we could say that the McCarthyism idea is softened as the book progresses.

The other aspect I had a little trouble with is something that probably irritates most modern readers, Heinlein's view on women. Still among the terrible stereotypical view of women (which often borders on misogyny) we find support for equality of the sexes and a very strong female character. I don't think it is fair to judge Heinlein by modern equality standards. Heinlein was obviously a child of his time who was at least trying his best to question the social structure and bring about change.

There are many other subjects we could focus on in this book but these were the ones that struck me the most.


message 3: by Greg, Muad'Dib (new) - added it

Greg | 812 comments Mod
Just wondering if anyone else has any thoughts on this book. Eight members voted for it after all! :)


message 4: by Greg, Muad'Dib (last edited May 28, 2018 04:53AM) (new) - added it

Greg | 812 comments Mod
Thorkell wrote: "Robert A. Heinlein loves to push the limits and this book is no exception. Here the main revolutionary idea is that nudity is good and normal and if we just dropped clothes all together then we would stop seeing nakedness as something strange. Remember, this is in 1951!."

Evidently, while this book has influenced or inspired other writers in the genre (as you mention), this particular aspect of the novel has not been quite as influential! ;)

Thorkell wrote: "The book can be read as a support for McCarthyism. There is an obvious connection between the aliens and the Russians. Searching on the Internet I found that Heinlein (at least half-heartedly) defend McCarthy. That came as no surprise. In the book the people who are controlled by the aliens and the dangerous idea of anti individualism are not human and should therefore be killed without mercy. Not that the protagonist is consistent in this view. He will often try to save the people instead of killing them and takes no pleasure in the killing. So in a way we could say that the McCarthyism idea is softened as the book progresses."

It's disappointing to read that Heinlein was, to some extent, pro-McCarthyist - although I had read before somewhere that some of his writing was rather right-wing. But I think quite a lot of science fiction - down to the 1970s at least - was influenced by the Cold War and popular preoccupations with themes like mind control (read communism) and invasion (read Russian post-war expansionism). It was also common - to some extent it still is - for aliens to be destroyed utterly by humans. A few days ago, I indexed a comic published in 1979 (Starblazer #13) that presented an alien computer-controlled colony ship as a threat to humanity that had to be destroyed - there was little attempt on the part of the protagonists at resolving the situation through peaceful means. This contrasts with the protagonist of The Puppet Masters trying to save people instead of killing them and that he will only kill anyone reluctantly.


Thorkell Ottarsson | 209 comments Greg wrote: "this particular aspect of the novel has not been quite as influential! ;)."

LOL!!! True. :)

As to him being pro-McCarthyist or not. I don't let that stand in my way of enjoying his books. Supposedly he has written books that can be interpreted as pro pedophilia. I welcome books that challenge my views and moral stand points and I will enjoy a piece of art even though the creator of it was a monster. A piece of art should not be judged by its creator's life.

Not that I'm saying that you disagree with me here. I just wanted to clarify in case you thought I had some different meanings.

So did you read the book or just my review? I hope I did not spoil it too much for you if you have not read it.


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