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Ship of Fools

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  1,737 Ratings  ·  160 Reviews
Home to generations of humans, the starship Argonos has wandered aimlessly throughout the galaxy for hundreds of years, desperately searching for other signs of life. Now an unidentified transmission lures them toward a nearby planet-and into the dark heart of an alien mystery.
Paperback, 370 pages
Published December 31st 2001 by Ace (first published 2001)
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Ted Bowling Am reading now.....75% of the way through....loving it. Am prepared for a disappointing ending based on some of the reviews. So far IMO, would make a…moreAm reading now.....75% of the way through....loving it. Am prepared for a disappointing ending based on some of the reviews. So far IMO, would make a good gothic space horror movie....think Event Horizon. (less)
Blindsight by Peter WattsShip of Fools by Richard Paul RussoHyperion by Dan SimmonsHull Zero Three by Greg BearLeviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
Space horror
2nd out of 162 books — 146 voters
I Am Legend and Other Stories by Richard MathesonSeed of Evil by Robert FriedrichShip of Fools by Richard Paul Russo1984 by George OrwellThe Strain by Guillermo del Toro
Great Sci Fi-Horror Books
3rd out of 35 books — 67 voters

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Community Reviews

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mark monday
spoilers ahead

last week my mom and i had a conversation about God that devolved into an unpleasant argument, with mom saying some things that i found to be ludicrous beyond belief and with me responding with comments that were condescending and offensive. last week i read a book called Ship of Fools; it is a dark and grim science fiction narrative about a colony ship trying to find a new home, written in a polished and straightforward style, and it is has one major concern: the question of evil
Ship of Fools is atmospheric science fiction with a great premise, which unfortunately runs short out of realizing its full potential. It combines motifs traditionally associated with classic science fiction - space exploration and first contact - and establishes a creepy and suspenseful mood throughout, slowly building its central theme: who are they, and who are we?

The eponymous ship is the Argonos, a massive vessel traversing through the deep space for decades, its original mission long forgo
Apr 12, 2016 Michael rated it liked it
This is the tale of a generational ship, Argonos, with a mission that has become obscure over the centuries of their travel. The title and recurrence of the representation of a “Ship of Fools” concept in literature, painting, and songs makes me look up in Wiki how it originated in Plato:

The allegory or parable depicts a vessel without a pilot, taken over by force or persuasion by those who are deranged, frivolous, or oblivious, and seemingly ignorant of their course.

The society of about 1,600 so
May 09, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who don't listen when the haunted house says "Get out!"
This is the book that the movie Prometheus should have been: tense, scary, intelligent, with a building sense of dread that starts working its way up your spine the first time things start going awry, and gets worse and worse after each time the characters reach another level of We Are So F***ed.

The Argonos is a generation ship, run by an Executive Council with nominal authority over the Captain. The first part of the book is largely political machinations: we learn that the Argonos has lost its

Ship of Fools reminds me of the prevalent hubris in current world politics. "You are either with us, or against us". There is no middle ground. You cannot debate about political ideology without alienating one or the other camp. You are either on the extreme left or extreme right. And good luck to you if you try to convince the group who you are debating against to believe otherwise. That's why I have stopped discussing politics on the internet. And to be honest, everybody wants to toot their ow
Santiago L. Moreno
Ciencia ficción a la vieja usanza, de la que no necesita explicar cada gadget o innovación tecnológica que sugiere, lo cual es de agradecer cuando lo que buscas es un libro que te saque del estancamiento. Atrapa de principio a fin, pero no deja secuelas más allá de un par de magníficas imágenes, de esas que solo la cf puede crear. Una historia que suma subgéneros y temáticas. Cf terrorífica de tintes religiosos con una nave generacional y un misterioso artefacto extraterrestre en el centro de la ...more
May 27, 2016 Bandit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recently I read a scifi book that made me rethink my normal avoidance of the genre. With that in mind, I tried Ship of Fools and it didn't disappoint. The things that interest me in books are primarily the inner worlds of characters, psychology and so on and Ship of Fools certainly satisfies in that respect, the scifi aspect is merely the framing within which the story unfolds. In fact, except for the very end, which got somewhat genre technical, the story wasn't even strongly genre specific. If ...more
Aug 03, 2011 Colin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Titled "Unto Leviathan" in England from whence it came, this story really captured my imagination. As I am a sucker for atmosphere, the generational starship on which most of the story takes place is filled with it. The dynastic aspect of the leadership, the striation of the crew by social class, the religious influence on the masses; all of it subject to the view of the protagonist. He is perhaps the sole well rounded person in the story, and though he is intelligent, he is not the only smart c ...more
Thomas Wagner
Oct 22, 2015 Thomas Wagner rated it really liked it
Full review coming.
Jan 01, 2015 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 Stars

Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo is a surprise of hit to me. This is the first time that I have read this author, but surely not the last. Russo has created a wonderful piece of survival science fiction that has a bit of a horror feel as well. This is not hard science, and it is easily accessible to those that normally veer from the genre.

Russo drops us right into the middle of the story. I am not going to summarize much as it would spoil this adventure. The writing, the plot, and the
Aug 09, 2007 Paul rated it really liked it
Ship of Fools, Richard Paul Russo, Ace Books, 2001

The multi-generation starship Argonos has aimlessly wandered the galaxy for hundreds of years, searching for any signs of life. Its original mission and destination have long ago been forgotten. Returning to Earth is not an option, for it has become a toxic, irradiated wasteland.

A mysterious signal draws the ship to an abandoned colony on an Earth-like planet. Nikko, the ship’s captain, barely averts a mutiny as several hundred passengers would r
Jun 11, 2007 Fred rated it it was ok
A promising start, interesting characters, and some ambitious questions. Unfortunately, it all falls apart in an anticlimactic ending.

Imagine this conversation and -- SPOILER WARNING -- you'll have the book in a nutshell:

"That ship is evil."
"There's no such thing as evil."
"That ship is evil."
"Evil may exist, but that ship isn't it."
"That ship is evil."
"Oh my god! That ship is evil!"
Roddy Williams
‘For Hundreds of years the Argonos, home to generations of humans, has trawled the galaxy searching for other signs of life. Now, a steady unidentified transmission has lured the ship to a remote planet.

On the surface the crew find evidence of a colony – but no inhabitants. Until they discover a trail deep into the planet’s steamy jungles, and their terrifying fate is revealed to them.

But this is only the first message.’

Blurb from the 2003 Orbit paperback edition

This is the novel that the movie
Spooky scary spaceship happenings! In some ways a let down because a lot went unexplained. Nevertheless, it kept up a great atmosphere throughout so I still enjoyed it. I wish it wrapped things up more definitively though. Blindsight and Hull Zero Three (this book's stablemates in the tiny subgenre of space horror) both managed that a lot better.

Random notes:
- Faith and Christianity are big themes in this book, but it didn't bother me too much because it added some flavour to the usual generatio
Feb 24, 2011 Szplug rated it liked it
For me, Ship of Fools was the textual equivalent of the movie Event Horizon: a setup replete with all the requisite elements for a creepy, sinister exploration of the potentiality for chiaroscuro alien horror within the deadening blackness of infinite space fizzles and limps to a disappointing ending through a lack of either courage or imagination upon the part of the author. I love the premise: a vast spaceship - the Argonos - engaged upon a generation-spanning trek across the galaxy, purpose u ...more
Jan 15, 2013 Patricia rated it it was amazing
The story is told through the eyes of Bartolomeo, a prickly fellow born deformed and raised by adults who he assumes knew his parents. He lives on a starship that has been wandering throughout the galaxy for centuries. All those on board had been born there. The purpose of their voyage remains elusive, and the archives that would give the passengers a sense of their past have been destroyed. It has been 14 years since the ship, called the Argonos, has visited a human habitation.

As the story begi
Aug 05, 2009 Nick rated it really liked it
Although not the greatest Science fiction I have ever read, I still count this as one of the better stories and enjoyable reads I have had in my sci-fi life. The author produces real terror as you read the pages, which FLY by. As the cover suggests, this is much like the movie alien, but better because it is in book form.

I loved this book but I cannot give it a 5 for three reasons.

1. It is just too dark. I don't generally prefer super dark books, and I think the problem with this is that the shi
Caleb Combs
Feb 19, 2014 Caleb Combs rated it it was amazing
Unbelievable. Absolutely one of my favorite works of all time. This novel took every one of my silly institutionalized expectations developed over the years of literary criticism and research and simply undermined them into unnecessary formulations of prose. Russo, killed the game right here if you ask me.

Although, this may not be one of the most literary pieces; I still find that analysis could take place on several channels. There is plenty to observe, learn and discuss in this book. The eco
Jason Smith
Oh the things we will finish just to shit on them more effectively in a book club. It failed as compelling sci-fi, engaging or chilling horror, treatise on faith and belief, or even the standards for a well edited or composed novel. With the exception of the latter, I think there was at least an attempt made for the other three. Perhaps I found it frustrating and reacted to it more negatively because I would have appreciated a sci-fi novel that approached these topics with more success. All too ...more
Dec 17, 2013 David rated it liked it
The book cover hooked my eye. I didn't know that the author, Richard Paul Russo, had won the Philip K. Dick Award for this work, his second. I'd never even heard of him. I was looking for someone new to try so I read the back cover.

No one remembers where they came from or where they're going. For hundreds of years, the starship Argonos, home to generations of humans, has wandered throughout the galaxy, searching for other signs of life. Now, a steady, unidentified transmission lures them toward
3.5 stars, recommended to sci-fi readers.

A satisfying tale of the "generation starship" variety. Some religious and nature-of-evil musings, folks with hidden agendas, and things going from bad to worse. The ending leaves things a bit up in the air, but it's not a complete cliffhanger. Perhaps there will some day be a Book #2.

Similar Books (generation starship tales):

And All the Stars a Stage by James Blish
Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1) by Beth Revis
Jun 02, 2015 Marie-Eve rated it it was amazing
You know, when you read a book and you have that feeling that you're holding, in your hand, a little piece of the author's soul? That's Ship of Fools. It's beautifully written, you learn to love the characters, even the despicable ones because they're grey; they are human beings with good and bad sides.

Bartolomeo is a magnificent main character and his romance with Father Veronica got to me. I'm not much of a romance-oriented gal, but this felt genuine and I was glad Father Veronica didn't break
Jan 19, 2016 Sarah rated it liked it
I picked this book up after reading a recommendation for it on a "Best Science Fiction Novels" list published somewhere on Ye Olde Internette. The premise sounds promising and I thought "why not."
If I'm being honest, I don't know what to make of this book. On the one hand, the premise *is* really neat. A human ark ship, the Argonos, has been wandering the galaxy for centuries trying to do...something. No really. "Something." It's been so long, and there's even been a revolution that erased all r
Mark Zieg
Oct 12, 2015 Mark Zieg rated it it was ok
The first 3/4 of this book seemed quite promising. However, the last why it's out of print, and will likely stay that way.

There are valid and interesting ways to explore issues of faith and ritual by extrapolating how Catholicism might evolve and mutate as we move out across the stars. Herbert did it in Dune with the Orange Catholic Bible, and Card did it in Speaker for the Dead with Bishop Peregrino. It can be done well, and it can add texture and insight to otherwise dry speculati
Sic Transit Gloria
Sep 01, 2015 Sic Transit Gloria rated it liked it
The protagonist (I don't remember how to spell the main characters name) is an important adviser to the captain of a generation ship. Unfortunately, there's a lot of tension on the ship, what with the captain not having an heir and the local religious leader (the bishop) elbowing his way into power and oh yeah, the planet full of dead people they just found. Later, they find an empty alien ship. Now they must decide what to do: Explore at risk of life and limb or run for their lives.

This book wa
Jack Keane
Beautifully written and does a fantastic job of building steady tension throughout the book, the themes of religion are there but never really elaborated on which is a shame because they added some weight to the story and helped flesh out a society we know very little about.
The problem I have with this book is the exact same as everybody else, and I am of the opinion that leaving the end of a story to the reader's imagination is pure laziness 9/10 times and this is no exception, in fact it is wo
Miriam Joy
I don't read much of this sort of sci-fi. I picked up this book when it was withdrawn from the library where I was working and it was lying around until I woke up today with some kind of stomach bug and realised I wouldn't be getting out of bed much, so decided to read it.

I wasn't a huge fan of the writing style. It wasn't particularly subtle, preferring to tell rather than show, which in places felt a little patronising to the reader as though it didn't trust me to make those connections. Howev
May 04, 2014 Steven rated it it was ok
Why did this win the PKD award? It was just mediocre. I mean really, the characters... I could care less about them. There was a midget..a smart midget who makes up for his short stature with tact. Sounds like Game of Thrones to me. There's only room for one of those midget archetypes in the literary world. The whole thing was very anti climactic. I won't say what you never get to figure out, but it's pretty major. I was praying the whole time that all the sub par unlikable characters get sucked ...more
Casey Hampton
Mar 08, 2014 Casey Hampton rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
I dig the basis of this book. A generational spaceship has been exploring so long that it's forgotten its purpose (coughing-allegory). They find a planet that has evidence of horrible stuff that happened to the planet's inhabitants. The explorers quickly depart only to discover an enormous alien spaceship adrift. Next, they explore the alien spaceship and discover, wait for it, wait for it, horrible stuff that happened to what appears to be humans that mirror what they found on the planet.

Nov 17, 2014 Dan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, sci-fi, horror
Good build up. Doesn't deliver. Evil alien hijinks drive the plot along without any rhyme or reason. Are they shape shifters? Are they cannibals? Can they control minds? Are they Satan incarnate? Yes! Or no! Whatever! New danger shows up, maybe kills somebody, then is left dangling and unresolved. The characters proceed to make bad decisions like they're in a cheesy horror movie. Towards the end, I wouldn't have been surprised if a zombie redneck torture family emerged out of cocoons on an aster ...more
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“few days ago, her husband brought her in to see a physician. She didn’t want to be examined; she said she was feeling fine, but her husband insisted. Primary symptoms: sleeping more than usual, and periodically going into a kind of fugue state—she’ll be unresponsive for hours, but doesn’t remember anything when she comes out of it. In fact, she insists the fugue states aren’t occurring at all, that her husband is fabricating them. Another major symptom is what her husband describes as an overwhelming apathy.” He paused. “You understand why I’m worried?” 2 likes
“I used to think that religion was for the ignorant, but I’ve seen some intelligent people who have a sincere belief in God. Father Veronica’s at the top of that list.” “So why is it she can’t convince either one of us?” I asked. He shook his head. “You and I will never believe, Bartolomeo.” “No,” 1 likes
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