Review: Tuf Voyaging, by George R. R. Martin

Tuf_300

Gollancz, ISBN 9780575129528

(Review first published in ASIM 58, June 2013)

Haviland Tuf, former trader, devotee of games of strategy, ailurophile, vegetarian, loner, and (it has to be said) pedant, finds himself, almost inexplicably, in sole possession of a spaceship that might, without exaggeration, be claimed to be the most powerful weapon throughout the known galaxy. This is not a new book by Martin; almost thirty years old, it’s a book which has been re-released with a cover somewhat redolent of a certain book and TV epic fantasy series with which I believe Martin may currently be associated. It’s also a fix-up novel, a picaresque-flavoured set of loosely-connected adventures, big beefy SF problem-solving tales (most of which first featured in Analog in the late 70s and early-to-mid 80s), ordered in time and space but lacking in discernible character development. All of which is not to say that these attributes are negative—you may well be looking for just this style of book, and of its type Tuf Voyaging is certainly not a bad example—but it’s this type of book, and not another.

There’s quite a lot to like about TV. Tuf is an intriguing (if at times frustratingly opaque) protagonist, the planetary societies with which he interacts are drawn in convincing detail, and while many of the characters are distinctly larger than life (Tuf himself tops out at around two-and-a-half metres, and is not svelte—in my mind’s eye, I see him as a cross between Alfred Hitchcock and Michelin Man), their motivations are plausible, their fates ineluctable. The tension in the tales—and it’s natural to think of the various instalments as separate tales, rather than pieces of an overarching narrative—derives less from genuine concern over our hero’s fate (it becomes obvious reasonably early on that these are stories through which Tuf proceeds almost entirely unruffled, even when incarcerated, beset by opponents intent on murder, or baled up by an angry tyrannosaur) than from puzzlement over how the story’s central dilemma will be resolved. Along the way, there are some genuinely impressive bits of worldbuilding, and Tuf’s acquired spaceship, the Ark, amasses impressive detail and familiarity with repeated exploration.

It’s a fun book, indicative of the larger contributions which Martin might well have made to the field of space opera, and SF in general, had he not veered off towards epic fantasy.

 

 

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(Review by Simon Petrie, 2013)

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