This is enjoyable and original sci-fi.
Haviland Tuf is an honest space-trader (one of the few), and he likes cats. So how is it that, despite being up against the worst villains in the universe, he has become the proud owner of the last working seedship, pride of Earth's Ecological Engineering Corps?
We'll leave that aside for now - just be thankful that the most powerful weapon in space is in good hands, hands which now control cellular material for thousands of outlandish creatures.
With his unique equipment and powerful spacecraft, Tuf is set to tackle the myriad problems that human settlers have created during their colonisation of far flung worlds. Hosts of hostile monsters, a population addicted to procreation, a dictator who is willing to unleash plagues to get his own way - and all that stands between the colonists and disaster is Tuf's ingenuity, and his reputation as an honest dealer in a universe of rogues...
Prior to reading this, I had only seen author George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones on television. This is the first book by him I have read, and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. His reputation as the new Tolkien and all the other epithets are thoroughly deserved, the man can write!
What I enjoyed here was the central character of Haviland Tuf. He is a large, bald, portly man, fond of cats and mistrusting of humans. Rather than being the archetypal lantern-jawed, barrel-chested superman often found in sci-fi, Tuf is someone who relies on his cunning and ingenuity. He is also a decent man in a universe of greedy and ignorant people with no scruples or morals.
Martin is the master at dialogue and interaction. The way his characters speak, their motives and their humour all ring true. If you are expecting lots of fighting and lasers, don’t read this. Tuf Voyaging is about philanthropy and ecological problem solving on a galactic scale.
Tuf must navigate his way safely through an exotic, yet hostile universe, imparting his wisdom and benevolence in the face of jealousy and self-serving contemporaries. His vessel, the Ark, has huge potential and awesome power, yet Tuf uses it for the universal good (whilst turning a neat personal profit, he has his origins as a trader after all).
Martin relishes in exposing the corrupt and selfish aspects of human nature, there is plenty of dry wit and humour in evidence as he puts his microscope up to his characters.
Some readers may find Tuf a little superior and aloof, manipulative and distant even, but I enjoyed his ability to see through and outwit the avarice he encounters on his journey. This is enjoyable and original sci-fi and I can see why Martin is so respected. Now for those other books he has written...
Published 2013 by Gollancz
Review by Daniel Cann
8.5/10 from 1 reviews
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