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The Puppet Masters is a novel by Robert A. Heinlein about an Alien Invasion, first published in 1951. This was the only novel Heinlein published on the subject and he cemented most of the tropes usually associated with invasion stories.

Secret agents Sam, Mary and "The Old Man" fight a fantastical battle against parasitic aliens who are bent on assimilating all of humanity and taking control of Earth. Danger is everywhere when anyone around you could be a host.


Tropes used in The Puppet Masters (novel) include:
  • Action Girlfriend: Mary. To be precise, she's a Gunwoman.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Loosely adapted into the 1958 sci fi film The Brain Eaters. Heinlein later sued for plagiarism, as he hadn't authorized the adaptation. Notable for one of the first film appearances of Leonard Nimoy.
    • Then adapted officially in 1994. This version moves the film to the present day, and loses a few of the subplots.
  • Alien Abduction: The aliens have been abducting humans for years, possibly centuries, as part of the plan to conquer Earth. It turns out that the protagonist's Love Interest was abducted from a human colony on Venus as a child; this provides a key to the eventual defeat of the invasion.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Though it may also be an example of Blue and Orange Morality, as the aliens claim that they want humans to be truly free, and the reader is never told whether they are lying. Or, it may be an allusion to Dirty Communists.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: The invasion begins in Grinnell, Iowa.
  • Benevolent Alien Invasion: The aliens claim to be bringing inner peace to humanity.
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: Their reproductive processes are activated by the closeness of potential victims.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Sam's father is actually nicknamed 'the Old Man', which may be an allusion to the Old Man of the Mountain. They live on not exactly friendly terms.
  • Chickification: Mary is a secret agent who carries an excessive amount of firepower and is certainly willing to use it. After marrying Sam halfway through the book, she becomes an instant "Yes dear" housewife, though it's unclear whether this is Values Dissonance on Heinlein's part or if he's just playing the situation for its humorous aspects.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Mary uses this to detect men who've been possessed by the Alien Invaders. Those Not Distracted by the Sexy are assumed to be "hag-ridden", though as the President points out at one stage, it could also mean they're "harem guards"--it is unclear whether Heinlein meant they were eunuchs or gay.
  • Eagle Land: Flavor 1.
  • Easily-Thwarted Alien Invasion: The solution is reached by logical reasoning rather than detailed research or military strategy, and turns out to be relatively simple.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Sam goes through several false identities. Only late in the novel does he go right up to his father and asks, "Dad, why did you name me Elihu?"
  • Exposition Intuition: Mary. Her intuition helps her to distinguish infected humans from non-infected ones. The author never explains how is she able to do it, though it is implied that this is somehow associated with sexual arousal as something of which only humans are capable.
  • Extended Disarming: There are several tongue-in-cheek references to Mary being excessively armed.

 The Secret Service guards gave us the works. An X-Ray went beep! and I surrendered my heater. Mary turned out to be a walking arsenal; the machine gave four beeps and a hicough, though you would have sworn she couldn't hide a tax receipt.

    • During a later strip-search he mentions that Mary "added considerably to the pile of hardware. I decided she just plain liked guns."
  • Government Conspiracy: Because of The Infiltration.
  • Hello, Nurse!: A metal neckline and a white sash across her breasts is everything which the nurse taking care of the main character wears up from her waistline.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Sam and Mary, though it's not clear whether the red color of Mary's hair is natural or not.
  • If You Won't, I Will: Sam is asked to allow one of the title monsters to take control of him as an experiment. He refuses, and discovers that his girlfriend Mary has volunteered to do it and will be going in his place. He reverses himself and agrees to take part.
  • It's Personal: Things really get personal for Sam when his beloved cat Pirate dies after being infected. He mentions his need for revenge in the closing of the book.
  • Mental Fusion: The aliens.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: There are some human beings who do not have masters riding them, who are so vile that they serve as Fifth Columnists to the masters.
  • Naked People Are Funny: In the United States it is very hard to enforce perpetual nudism, which happens to be necessary for safety reasons.
  • Not My Driver: The Old Man reclaims Sam after he's been possessed by a slug by hijacking him in a vehicle.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: President Personable type. He's a classic Hollywood leader.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: This is pretty much the main theme of the book.
    • It's worth noting that this book was the former Trope Namer.
  • Re Cut: As with several other Heinlein books, The Puppet Masters was released in an expanded edition by his wife Virginia after his death. Most of the added material is graphic violent/sexual content censored at the time of the original release.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens.
  • Science Is Bad: While the scientific method is acceptable -- even praiseworthy -- when used to combat the Puppet Masters, science-for-science's sake is scorned by the main characters. The feeling is that pure scientists don't actually produce anything useful, unlike engineers.
  • Shoot the Dog: Pirate's death.
  • Sink or Swim Mentor: The Old Man for Sam (but only when America needs it).
  • So Proud of You: Sam and the Old Man.
  • Society Marches On: The novel was published in 1951 and set in 2007. Although the heroine is just as tough and capable as the male lead (sometimes more so), the moment gender roles or romantic relationships come up she turns, hilariously, into June Cleaver.
    • People complained about having to walk around bare to the waist (or in bikini tops for women) far more in the book than they probably would have in real life 2007.
  • Space Elves: They are the race which the aliens apparently exploit on their home planet. Supposedly, they were the original inhabitants of Titan.
  • Starfish Aliens.
  • Synthetic Plague: The only way to stop the aliens from taking over the Earth.
  • Tank Goodness: The "mud turtles."
  • We Come in Peace, Shoot to Kill: The aliens. Again, this may be a political allusion.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: As a drug induced state.
  • Zeerust: Several examples. One that stands out is when Sam goes to the library to do research on UFO sightings. He does this by scanning through spools of microfilm. In 2007.

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