Ship of Fools / Richard Paul Russo

This review appeared on my previous blog, Rat's Reading.

Read Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo a couple of years ago. It’s a space opera, science fiction type of story. The basic synopsis is this: The Argonos has been traveling through space for generations. No one can remember when it started or where it started from or even what it’s supposed to be doing. They do know they went back to Earth once and it was an irradiated wreck. It’s a large ship, and it has developed a political atmosphere. Nikos is the captain, and Bishop Soldano, the head of the Church, is Nikos prime rival for control of the ship. The Argonos discovers a world they name Antioch. Bartolomeo helps an unsuccessful mutiny of the lower class of the ship who wish to settle Antioch.

Cover of Ship of Fools

Imprisoned for his mutinous ways, Bartolomeo is released to lead the exploration of an alien ship. It is the first alien ship that humans have ever found, at least as far as the residents of the Argonos know. The Bishop thinks the ship is evil. And it is true that several people have died trying to explore the ship. Once Bartolomeo takes the helm of the exploration though, they begin to make progress.

This was a decent story. The author spends a fair amount of time developing the characters involved. One aspect of the book that I liked is the focus on the effect belief has on the various participants in the plot. However, it doesn’t really touch on the nature of belief or of the specifics of any particular belief. It is shallow in that manner, and that is somewhat of a disappointment, as there could be a lot more done with that. There could also have been a lot done with people using faith to carry them through fear and peril.

There are also a lot of loose ends and unexplained character actions. It started to distract from the story after a while. You start to wonder, “Why did he do that?” A lot of these actions are on the cusp of making sense. In other words, they don’t make sense on the face of them, but with some explanation that Mr. Russo had in the back of his mind, they would not baffle the reader as much.

It’s very much a thumbs in the middle book. It didn’t blow me away, but it also didn’t bother me so much that I stopped reading. In other words, I wouldn’t recommend picking it up if you have a huge stack of other books that you haven’t yet gotten to. But if you have a few spare hours, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to occupy your time.

Eventually, they discover a gruesome secret. The alien ship’s hold contains millions of human corpses, impaled on hooks and generally looking like a butcher shop. However, there is no sign of the aliens on the ship. The story then turns into a life or death struggle to get away from the peril of this ship. It turns out the ship is not as dead as they thought. In the end, the crew attempts to take the entire population back to Antioch and destroy the alien ship.

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