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Ship of Fools

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  3,054 ratings  ·  291 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 January 2001)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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Jack Tripper
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I see a lot of mixed reviews here, but to me, Ship of Fools was an extremely eerie and intense hybrid of horror and space opera*. Though considering Alien is probably my all-time favorite horror film, and a top two or three science-fiction film (Blade Runner will always be tops in my book), I may be slightly biased, as this does have a pretty similar feel, in that a seemingly-abandoned alien spaceship is discovered by the crew of a human-occupied ship. The horrors here are much more psychologica ...more
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
Nov 05, 2011 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 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
Timothy Urges
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ship of Fools follows a generational ship without a mission. The people of the Argonos desire to find a habitable planet and civilization in hopes of gaining new information. But they have no idea why or how they came to exist aboard the ark. Some believe the ship has always existed, while others believe it originated on Earth. They have no answers, but they think they have found a habitable planet to investigate and questions arise.

At first, I did not like the lack of detail within the book, b

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
Jun 11, 2007 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!"
Dec 25, 2014 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
Chris Berko
Apr 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked reading this book and thought the pacing was great and the story was pretty cool but upon finishing I was left unsatisfied and felt sort of let down. Nothing too memorable on any front from this, and the story for me at least slowed down towards the end. Overall I'm left with the impression that there was a lot of buildup but not a lot of payoff.
Nov 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Such an excellent sci-fi read. I loved it. As soon as I finished reading it -- no joke -- I went right back to the first page and started reading it again.

I am almost always thankful for short chapters, but I was especially thankful for them in this book because there was a section that was so intense I needed those breaks to let my heart get back to a normal rhythm. Full on!

This book had the same atmosphere as the movie Event Horizon. And Ghost Ship. I loved it. I've also watched my husband pla
Robert Maxwell
SUMMARY: In the end, the book is a not-very-effective haunted house story interlaced with a bare-bones attempt to discuss a few ideas. The Alien Ship in question remains a total mystery to the reader which undercuts any sort of understanding. The book builds up to a very brief payoff around the three-quarters mark, but that's solved almost immediately. The ideas discussed in the book are discussed exceptionally briefly and as a philosophical sketch more than anything. The main character is gener ...more
Aug 03, 2011 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
May 27, 2016 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
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I didn't initially feel like this was going to be a five star book. It was pitched to me as a religious generation ship (which it is) and a big dumb object (which there is) and it was interesting, but seemed to fall pretty squarely in the Venn diagram of those tropes. The writing lacked the gravitas that I normally find in books that I rate 5 stars. But I loved what the book had to say about religion, societal stagnation, and helplessness. The writing helped all of those things, on the surface b ...more
Caleb Combs
Jan 28, 2014 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
Mars Rising
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars ✨ - mild spoilers below

Dark, religious, explorative, big object in space sci-fi.

Excellent characters with no good guys and everyone makes mistakes - thus the story explores the issue of right/wrong in a universe that allows pure evil to penetrate everything.

Without mentioning spoilers, this book contains a spectacular moment of fear and terror.

A character reveals something the character shouldn't know. At first I thought it was the author being lazy because I caught it.

Then when I reali
Tim Hicks
Apr 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I note that this was written in 2001, but it hasn't aged, the theme being realtivelyt timeless and the science not leading-edge. Russo doesn't seem to have done much writing since 2008.

This book trots along nicely, builds the tension in a pretty standard BDO plot, ramps up to what looks to be a Big Finish, then goes pffft.

Others have commented effectively on this book, so skim the 2-star reviews as well as the better ones.

I'm left wondering if this was meant to be musings on faith and good/evi
Angus McKeogh
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Running through a few winners of the Philip K. Dick Award and this was another superb read. I wasn’t familiar with the author or the book before I picked it up, but upon completion I certainly see why it received such accolades. Great read.
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Dysfunctional human space ark finds deserted alien spaceship which was a haunted house. This was a Spooky Spaceship story with emphasis on horror.

TL;DR Description

This was two good stories that were not made to work well with each other as parallel plot-lines. Russo is a good writer. The soft science fiction story of a tribalized, forever wandering generation ship would have been deep enough plot-wise to carry the novel alone. His alien ghost ship was likewise a good, but smaller story. Tog
Aug 09, 2007 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
Aug 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Lisa Lynch
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
"I am sick to death of life on this ship. Look at us. You and I are a couple of freaks. But the reality is, this entire ship is filled with freaks We don't know how to live normal human lives anymore. Living from birth to death inside a hunk of metal is unnatural, and I think it's done unnatural things to us."

"And how is the alien ship going to help that?"

"Hell, I don't know. But it's something different, and I mean really different. Whatever happens out there, good or bad or something in betwee
Phillip Smith
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
A strong four stars. This book takes its time, but where others might think of the pace as "plodding," I found it to be darkly immersive.

This sci-fi book has a black heart at the center of its mystery and plays no favorites with its characters. In many ways, it reminded me of M. John Harrison's work or even Peter Watts, whereby the cast of characters finds something truly alien, truly obscure in the outskirts of space. Yet in trying to penetrate the mystery at its core, they are just left with
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
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle-generic
It’s probably more of a 3.5 than 4 but it had some really good mood setting. Or terroir, to borrow from another alien story - the Area X trilogy. The unknowable is difficult to write so I’m always intrigued when an author attempts it. Russo got pretty close and manages to almost get you there but sometimes there was a little too much show rather than tell so you’re left with images and no real reason for what you’re seeing.
Mar 04, 2010 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 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
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
Nov 17, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, horror, sci-fi
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
Renee Wolcott
Aug 16, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science-fiction
This is a wretched book. I think I bought it because I love the other Richard Russo so much. Don't make the same mistake. This is science fiction at its worst, full of plot holes and dangling threads. An ill-defined alien threat, some religious symbolism, and random character development do not a story make.
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“ideas, different ways of looking at the world.” “Different beliefs?” “Yes, different beliefs, too. But we don’t have contact with other people. We go far too many years without seeing anyone other than ourselves. In fact, I do not think it is a good thing that we spend our entire lives on this ship.” “Why not?” I was amazed at how open she was with me, and I wanted to encourage her to keep talking. “We stagnate, and we have no history.” “We” 1 likes
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