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“Tuf Voyaging” by George R.R. Martin

tuf voyaging

Most of Martin’s short story collections feature groups of unconnected short stories, one exception is 1987's “Tuf Voyaging”, a series of short stories following planetary ecologist Haviland Tuf on his interstellar journeys. The first story “The Plague Star” is probably the best telling how Tuf, an eccentric trader with a dislike of human contact, finds himself involved with a group of mercenaries and scientists who track down the last of the lost-for-centuries Ecological Engineering Corps starships. This ship was used initially for terraforming planets, and allowing large scale environmental changes by genetically modifying creatures and plants, later it was used as a for biological warfare against alien races threatening humanity. The first story is an entertaining adventure story as Tuf and his companions have to deal with the various monstrosities that guard the abandoned space ship. The second story sees Tuf in command of the vast resources of the star ship; he teaches himself Ecological Engineering and resolves to make a living helping out various colonies. The rest of the book sees Tuf visiting various worlds and sorting out their problems. The second story, “Loaves And Fishes” sees Tuf helping an overpopulated world with its chronic lack of food, this planet is revisited in the thought-provoking final story in the collection, “Second Helpings”, when Tuf realises more extreme measure are necessary to control the problem. “A Beast For Norn” sees him breeding creatures for gladiatorial combats popular on the planet Norn. Other stories seem him dealing with vicious sea monsters and a rebellion.

As the book goes on Tuf gets increasingly arrogant and when he decides to help someone he is determined to do it in his own way. His eccentricities, strange phobias and continual misunderstanding of people's conversations get quite irritating after a while, no doubt this is deliberate on the author’s part but the lack of sympathetic characters can make it hard to really care about what happens in some of the stories especially since they quickly fall into a formula where Tuf outwits the various people who hire him. The ecological focus is unusual for a science fiction story, and they are quite well written with a few interesting twists, but the main character is too insufferable and the supporting cast generally unmemorable, characterisation is usually one of Martin’s strengths so this collection ends up being reasonably good but slightly disappointing.

Rating : 6.5 / 10

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