The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Puppet Masters is the story of an alien invasion, one of the first invasion stories to utilize the motif of predatory aliens effecting a parasitic or symbiotic control over the human nervous system. The obvious and frightening result is that there is virtually no human defense against such a creature: Through their human hosts, the aliens know everything humans know; no secret can be kept from the aliens, and any human might be controlled by an alien.

The novel is narrated by Elihu Nivens, though initially the reader knows only his code name, Sam Cavanaugh. Elihu/Sam (he is most often called Sam in the novel) is an agent in a secret service organization serving the U.S. government. The head of the organization, posing as Sam’s uncle, Charlie Cavanaugh, is later revealed to be Elihu’s real father, Andrew Nivens. When a spaceship carrying many aliens lands in Des Moines, Iowa, Sam and “The Old Man,” Charlie, investigate, along with the organization’s top female agent, Allucquere, posing as Sam’s sister Mary. They discover that one of the sluglike aliens has attached itself to the back of a Des Moines television executive, enabling the aliens to censor any news about themselves.

Unable to convince the president of the United States to act on their findings, Sam and Mary continue to investigate until one of the slugs seizes control of Sam. The Old Man is able to capture Sam and remove the slug, ending a hellish nightmare...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

The Puppet Masters Bibliography

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Aldiss, Brian. Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction. New York: Atheneum, 1986.

Franklin, H. Bruce. Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Gifford, J. Daniel. Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader’s Companion. Sacramento, Calif.: Nitrosyncretic Press, 2000.

McGiveron, Rafeeq O. “Heinlein’s Inhabited Solar System, 1940-1952.” Science-Fiction Studies 23 (July, 1996): 245-252.

Nicholls, Peter. “Robert A. Heinlein.” In Science Fiction Writers: Critical Studies of the Major Authors from the Early Nineteenth Century to the Present Day, edited by E. F. Bleiler. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1982.

Olander, Joseph D., and Martin Harry Greenberg, eds. Robert A. Heinlein. New York: Taplinger, 1978.

Panshin, Alexei. Heinlein in Dimension. 1968. Reprint. Chicago: Advent, 1974.

Patterson, William H., Jr., and Andrew Thronton. The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land.” Citrus Heights, Calif.: Nitrosyncretic Press, 2001.

Stephens, Christopher P., comp. A Checklist of Robert A. Heinlein. Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Ultramarine, 1994.

Stover, Leon. Robert Heinlein. Boston: Twayne, 1987.