Ship of Fools: Book Review

Amazing news: my folk horror novella is completed! I’ll be putting it through one last pair of eyes and hopefully be able to send it out to open calls. It’s been quite the process. I originally completed it late last year but left it for a while, before picking it back up for edits.

I’ll, of course, keep you updated on it as we go!

The Author

Richard Paul Russo is an American science fiction writer. His very first story, “Firebird Suite”, appeared in Amazing Stories in 1981, while his debut novel, Inner Eclipse, was published in 1988. He has won the Philip K. Dick award twice: in 1989 for Subterranean Gallery, and in 2001 for Ship of Fools. Subterranean Gallery was also a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

I wasn’t able to find a website for him or any kind of online presence so I linked to his Wikipedia page here.

The Novel

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.

Ship of Fools Goodreads page

The Ship of Fools was first published in 2001 and is told from the point of view of Bartolomeo Aguilera, friend and advisor to Captain Niko. The novel starts with the ship detecting a transmission coming from a hospitable planet. Captain Niko is desperate to regain some popularity so he sends down a crew to investigate, including the protagonist. A horrifying discovery causes the crew to flee back to the Argonos and it sets off once more into the void, only to find something worse.

The Review

This slow-burning sci-fi horror pits religion against politics against the basic human desire to survive. The characters often struggle with their own morality and humanity, leading to lengthy conversations between characters and internal monologues from the protagonist.

One thing I really loved about this novel was the bleak setting of the Argonos — it almost feels like a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk city, but the citizens are trapped by the city itself, as well as by the status-hungry upper class. I pictured the ship entirely in a palette of black and gray. This contrasts sharply when they land on the lush planet, visiting steaming jungles, lush fields, and majestic mountains.

I also enjoyed the growth of Bartolomeo Aguilera throughout the novel. Originally, he started off as a very reserved, grim, quiet character. Almost like a dog waiting to be kicked again. Then he grows, becoming more vocal, more emotional, and defined.

The novel is also ripe with building tension, dread, and suspense. Russo is effective at adding the horror on slowly, so that they reader never gets any rest.

All in all, it was a gripping read.

If you’re not into the whole science mixed with theology thing, this is definitely not the book for you because religion plays a very heavy part throughout the whole thing.

I also saw that many people didn’t like the ending and felt it “fell flat”. I would disagree. I have to be careful so as not to spoiler anything but the ending had a very cosmic horror feel to it. I quite, quite enjoyed it!



p.s. Like this artwork? Get your very own PLM portrait here!

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