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1951 __ « The Puppet Masters » — skull phone
Robert Heinlein (1907-1988)
Comment : Here's a handy invention that would have been impossible in the 1940's (when the story was written) but is eminently manufacturable in the 21st century. Not satisfied with technologies that were merely forty years ahead of his time, Heinlein skipped right over the entire cell phone era. “The Puppet Masters” is a 1951 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein in which American secret agents battle parasitic invaders from outer space. The novel was originally serialised in Galaxy Science Fiction (September, October, November 1951). Space technology is far more advanced than in the actual first decade of the 21st century. For example, in the last scene, a space warship is sent on a twelve-year trip to Titan, with not only life-support for a large crew but also enough armaments - presumably nuclear - to all by itself confront an entire world. However, communications satellites have not been thought of, and TV broadcasts are still limited to line-of-sight, as they were at the time of writing. This has a crucial importance for the plot. A big country like the United States is divided into numerous "blocks" which receive TV broadcasts from their neighbors and relay them onwards. When the invaders seize one of these "blocks", they effectively control all communications within it and can isolate its inhabitants from the outside world, deny the central government any access to them and consolidate control at their leisure. (Compiled from various sources)Plot summary : "Sam" is an agent in an intelligence organization within the United States government, so secret it reports only to the President, and is entirely unknown to anyone else. He is superbly trained, equipped with a built-in communicator he calls a "skull phone" as well as a number of ways to commit suicide if the need arises. Called in by "the Old Man", his boss and the head of the organization, they go to investigate the report of a flying saucer landing in Grinnell, Iowa after several other agents fail to report back. With them is another agent named "Mary", a stunningly beautiful redhead. Sam is informed that her life is only slightly less precious than the Old Man's, and that he (Sam) is the most expendable. In Iowa, they discover that the people are being brought under the mental control of repulsive, slug-like creatures that attach to their backs, just below the neck. Detaching one slug from its host, they seal it in a film canister and bring it back to headquarters in Washington, D.C. By the time they get there though, it is a stinking mess, and they are unable to convince the President that there is an invasion. (Compiled from various sources)Heinlein predicts some things that have not occurred (flying cars) and others that seem very relevant looking at today’s technology (”skull” phones: phones embedded in the skull behind the ear. Truly “hands free”!). (Compiled from various sources)
Original excerpt : « For me it started much too early on July 12, '07, with my phone shrilling in a frequency guaranteed to peel off the skull. I felt around my person, trying to find the thing to shut it off, then recalled that I had left in my jacket across the room. "All right," I growled. "I hear you. Shut off that damned noise." "Emergency," a voice said in my ear. "Report in person." [...] The sort of phone my section uses is not standard; the audio relay was buried surgically under the skin back of my left ear-bone conduction. »
Source : Heinlein, Robert (1951), “The Puppet Masters”, originally serialized in Sept, Oct, Nov 1951 issues of Galaxy Science Fiction magazine.
Urls : http://www.heinleinsociety.org/concordance/books/pm_hc.htm (last visited ) http://www.scribd.com/doc/17476119/Heinlein-Robert-a-Puppet-Masters-The (last visited )

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