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, a steady, unidentified transmission lures them toward a nearby planet, where the grisly remains of a former colony await the crew. Haunted by what they have seen, the crew has no choice but to follow when another signal beckons the Argonos into deep space—and into the dark heart of an alien mystery..
Ship of Fools, also known as Unto Leviathan in Great Britain, takes place on the generational ship called the Argonos as it flows through space looking for any signs of life in the universe. The starship eventually is able to intercept unidentified transmissions, luring them to a nearby planet where a colony long established lays in runs. Horrified at the discoveries the crew makes, they discover another signal on the planet which leads them into deep space. There they find an alien mothership and look to uncover all the mysteries it holds.
Published in 2001 and the recipient of the Philip K. Dick award for Science Fiction, Ship of Fools continues to this day to be a shining example of giving us the typical Sci-fi troupes, but being approachable and easy to digest for newcomers, like myself, to the genre. The main protagonist in the story is Bartolomeo Aguilera told in first person POV. Bartolomeo is the captains advisor on the starship and he see’s how the elite members of the ship with power look to operate the ship, but he also lives among the “poor” citizens on board and how they struggle day-to-day. When a signal is received from an unknown planet, Bartolomeo is tasked with gathering information and to make first contact with any and all lifeforms. What he discovers will not only shock him, but will change the perspectives of everyone living on the Argonos.
This story combines the grand scope of living on a generational ship, making first contact, and establishing the suspense and down right horrifying scenes that take place in this novel. The pacing and suspense build-up, especially in the second half of the book, can only be described as bone chilling, with a fantastic climax. When I first read this book, it reminded me a lot of watching alien for the first time, with the same spooky feeling that something bad was going to happen. Although published almost 20 years ago, the writing and plot still hold up very well with today’s sci-fi authors and it is very easy to read for any experienced or new reader to sci-fi. There is also a big religious component to this book and how well the factions on the starship are dealing with the discoveries and how they impact their religious beliefs.
Apart from reading Dune, Ship of Fools opened my eyes to what great experiences the sci-fi has to offer. Some readers may find certain books in this genre daunting, but you need not fear with Ship of Fools. This book can be read and enjoyed by anyone and everyone who is looking to make discovers and being terrified in the process!