Tuf Voyaging is a re-release of GRRM’s work for all those fans who, like me, came late to the 6 page descriptions of every last meal and who squeed when the Great Bearded Glacier smashed Paul’s guitar. (I assure you there are no 6 page descriptions of meals although Tuf is fond of his food.)
Haviland Tuf is Tyrion Lannister’s literary predecessor although physically he’s a polar opposite. Tuf is engaged to shuttle a salvage team to a long-lost seedship capable of genetic modification and populating planets with life. Once Tuf’s ship nears the seedship, treachery looms nigh; Tuf puts his gamesmanship skills to practical use to survive.
After ownership of the seedship is settled, Tuf organises repairs then travels, utilising his newly developed ecological engineering skills to raise funds to pay for repairs. Episodic adventures (think of a TV series with an adventure-of-the-week) combine under an overarching plot tying the novel together as a whole.
Tuf’s intelligence and general street-smarts varies significantly in the first half of the novel. At first Tuf seems on a par with Tyrion then his failure to anticipate the bleeding obvious disappointed. Throughout the rest of the novel Tuf’s intelligence recovered although never reaching Tyrion’s dizzying heights where I put down A Clash of Kings to squee and process Tyrion’s Machiavellian politics.
To be honest, Tuf is a pompous git overly focused on food and drug-laced drinks whose flat affect (lack of emotion in face and voice) is reflected in the narrative. At one point another character reflects that Tuf is miserly in his expression.
Tuf’s personal code of ethics is the key to an interesting character. His ethics and his cats. Societies in need of assistance send representatives who, inevitably, rub Tuf the wrong way. The resulting conflict is varied yet results in stimulating philosophical discussion.
Tuf’s love of cats provides a humorous element as he spreads his ‘cat vermin’ throughout several solar systems.
Tuf Voyaging discusses ecological and sociological issues pertinent today. When writing, GRRM was clearly abreast of scientific concerns like global warming and overpopulation. Dry humour and devious plotting more than compensate for a somewhat dry narrative. Highly recommended science fiction / space opera, especially if you’re a cat person.
4 out of 5 stars.