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Monday, January 15, 2007

Review: Ship of Fools

Richard Paul Russo came to my attention several years ago for his delightful twin thrillers set in San Francisco, Destroying Angel, Carliucci's Edge, and Carliucci's Heart, hard-hitting, realistic science fiction which is highly recommended.

Ship of Fools combines two frequently encountered devices in Science Fiction, the Generation Ship, and the first encounter with an Alien object. Unlike other Generation ships, however, the ship in question, the Argonos isn't a generation ship intended for one destination, but is actually an FTL-capable ship whose mission has been lost in time.

The narrator, a deformed person with prosthetics starts the story as a confidant of the ship's Captain, the last of his line of hereditary captains, with political jockeying for his position already happening. The ship discovers a signal, and finds the ruins of a civilization. The landing party discovers some horrors, and a signal is sent from the ruins to an object elsewhere. Following the signal finds an alien ship, and the story proceeds apace from there.

There are several subplots, including a mutiny by members of the underclass, a love interest (which does not turn out the way you might expect, and is extremely effective that way), so as a reader your mind is occupied by a lot of distractions. Unfortunately, this doesn't quite make the mystery of the alien ship a surprise, which is disappointing since Russo's previous books did quite well in surprising me.

This book was worth reading, but I'll be having a very bad year for reading if it made even the top three books this year.

Time. There wasn't much of it left to Nikos because the ship was in crisis---we had not made landfall in all these years, and we had no unified mission. We were travelling almost at random through the galaxy, had been for decades, if not centuries, and there was no consensus of purpose or goal. This had always been the case, at least during my lifetime...

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