Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin – book review

"Tuf Voyaging" by George R.R. Martin.
“Tuf Voyaging” by George R.R. Martin.
In the 1970’s and 80’s, long before he wrote the Song of Ice and Fire books, George R.R. Martin was writing science fiction. He wrote particularly excellent short fiction, which garnered him a handful of awards, including Hugos for “Sandkings”, “The Way of Cross and Dragon”, and “A Song for Lya”. Tuf Voyaging is a fix-up novel containing stories he wrote during this period starring a man named Haviland Tuf.

In the first story, Tuf is the captain of a trading spaceship he calls the Cornucopia of Excellent Goods at Low Prices. He’s not a great trader, but he’s earnest. He takes on four people that hire him for transport to a “plague star”, which contains a planet that has been ravaged by disease. The cause of the disease is found when Cornucopia of Excellent Goods at Low Prices is damaged after triggering a seedship’s defenses: a seedship of the Ecological Engineering Corp from the Federal Empire, an ancient polity that has since faded into myth.

Through a crazy series of events that involve a Tyrannosaurus rex, Tuf ends up in sole possession of the massive seedship he calls the Ark. He parks the Cornucopia of Excellent Goods at Low Prices in one of the bays and starts using the ship’s stunning biological capabilities to make a living as an Ecological Engineer. With his cats, Tuf flies from world to world solving ecological problems.

Things, of course, are not that simple.

The major appeal of Tuf Voyaging is the character of Haviland Tuf. He’s a man of many words, delivered in a dry yet eloquent way that never gets old. At times the reader thinks Tuf may not be perceiving what is happening around him. It’s always a delight to find out that he understands perfectly.

The book is also thoughtful. Many of the ecological problems that Tuf is called on to solve have a human element to them. On a planet called S’uthlam, for example, Tuf argues that overpopulation is going to prevent any solutions, which spurs a debate about religious beliefs vs. ecology. On another world, treatment of animals is a topic. Martin brings these things up in this book without being preachy. I recommend Tuf Voyaging.

This book contains the following stories:

  • “The Plague Star” (1985)
  • “Loaves and Fishes” (1985)
  • “Guardians” (1981)
  • “Second Helpings” (1985)
  • “A Beast for Norn” (1976)
  • “Call Him Moses” (1978)
  • “Manna From Heaven” (1985)

Release Date: February 2013(USA)
Original Release Date: February 1986(USA)
ISBN: 0345537998 (9780345537997)
Publisher: Bantam Books
Language: English

MySF Rating: Four point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 90%


Alcohol/Drugs: 2 (brief)
Language: 1 (occasional, mild)
Sexuality: 2 (mentioned, not graphic)
Violence: 3 (some grisly content in the opening story)

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