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

Fans of Game of Thrones and cat people will want to bookmark this throwback 1986 book by George R.R. Martin as a must-indulge summer read.

PARENT REVIEW | Marty Ellison

Tuf Voyaging is a serialized novel set in the far distant future that chronicles the adventures of Haviland Tuf, who stands over 8 feet tall, has pasty white skin, speaks in a stilted, formal manner, has no sense of humor, and prefers the company of cats to humans.

Authored by George R.R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame, this collection of stories is a fun and entertaining read, with Martin’s sardonic sense of humor reflected in Tuf’s quirky personality, unintentional sarcasm, and most importantly, love of cats. In fact, the cats play important roles in the book, providing a kind of bemused background that gives readers permission not to take it too seriously. (Cat people: You’re going to like this book.)

The saga begins when Tuf, an independent trader, joins forces with a group of scoundrels who hire him and his ship, the Cornucopia of Excellent Goods at Low Prices, to find a “seedship,” a spaceship 30 kilometers long that was developed by the now-defunct Federal Empire thousands of years earlier as a bioweapon. The seedship, known as the Ark, is one of the most devastating weapons ever created, but it’s also one of the most valuable—containing the most advanced biogenetic science in the galaxy.

Once they find the Ark, the group begins a deadly fight for control of the massive ship, with Tuf caught in the crossfire. Though outnumbered and outgunned, Tuf uses guile and cunning to defeat and kill the scoundrels and acquire the Ark. Now in control of the Ark, Tuf becomes an ecological engineer for hire, using the Ark to save planets facing ecological or biological disasters and enriching himself in the process.

The stories revolve around each planet and Tuf’s solution to its ecological or biological disaster, which leaves the inhabitants unsatisfied because of Tuf’s demanding terms and annoying personality. In the end, the reader is faced with the moral question that dominates the stories: Do the ends justify the means?

Marty Elgison is a retired attorney and avid reader of science fiction old and new.

TEEN REVIEW | Olivia Ellison

Tuf Voyaging is a collection of individual stories following space explorer Haviland Tuf, a quirky and somewhat antisocial trader-turned-ecological-engineer who really likes cats. Each story sees Tuf using his newfound seedship called the Ark—which just happens to be one of the biggest and most powerful vessels in the galaxy—to help people of different planets, usually with some hidden ulterior motive.

Each of the seven stories explores Tuf’s initially unreadable personality in different ways. This character pretty much carries the entire book on his own, and he is essentially the only character that the reader is really meant to invest in. With a story centered so heavily on one character, that character must be compelling. And while Tuf doesn’t exactly exhibit many of the traits of a traditional sci-fi protagonist, he is one of the most unique and cleverly written characters of any book I’ve ever read. Though his deadpan personality and lack of proficiency with metaphors, sarcasm, and human emotion may initially be a turnoff for some, these qualities make for some incredibly clever and witty dialogue and a great use of ironic humor throughout the book.

One of my favorite interactions is when one character, angry with someone else, tells Tuf that she would like to give them a “good piece of her mind”—and Tuf responds, with no hint of snark or sarcasm, “A good piece of your mind might be considered an oxymoron.” This one line encompasses Tuf’s personality almost perfectly, and despite the fact that he was not attempting to be humorous in any way, it nearly made me laugh out loud.

This book definitely isn’t for everyone, but it is an extremely entertaining read that offers a unique take on the science fiction genre, so I would recommend it to any sci-fi fan. If nothing else, read it for the cats.

Olivia Elgison is a sophomore at North Atlanta High School in Atlanta, Georgia. 

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