Tuf Voyaging cover

(Tuf Voyaging, by George R.R. Martin, 2013, Bantam, $16.00, 440 pp.)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

Bantam has re-released George R.R. Martin’s 1986 fix-up sci-fi novel, Tuf Voyaging. It’s loosely based on biblical tales and characters, with the title character’s, Havilund Tuf’s, seedship vessel bearing the name “Ark,” and with chapters titled “Loaves and Fishes,” “Call Him Moses,” and “Manna from Heaven.”

Tuf Voyaging, however, is not a biblical parody. (If you want that, your best bets are James Morrow’s Bible Stories for Adults and Dick Bozarth’s Bible Tales for Ages 18 and Up.) Rather, it’s a social science fiction tale focusing on the perils of runaway population growth and religious dogmatism. Martin is quite open about this. Among other things, the action in Tuf Voyaging largely revolves around a grossly overpopulated but technologically advanced planet, S’uthlam. (Reverse the letters, transpose the “t” and “h,” take out the mandatory “sci-fi apostrophe,” and … well, you get the idea.)

Despite this grim subtext, the book is light reading in the tall-tale tradition; its tone is very similar to that of Mike Resnick’s “Inner Frontier” stories. It’s also similar in that it has extravagant, often-amusing caricatures rather than fully developed characters. In contrast to the panoply of grotesques in Resnick’s works, in Tuf Voyaging the only character worth mentioning is Tuf himself. And the reader only sees Tuf’s surface: logical, sarcastic,  almost eerily calm and restrained, yet quirky (a vegetarian gourmand who loves beer and cats)–with all this presented via a distant third-person point of view. In short, Tuf is a cardboard character–and one entirely appropriate to a tall tale.

Those familiar with Martin’s other more famous works, and expecting an intricate plot and well drawn characters, will be disappointed in Tuf Voyaging. But those happy with a simple but amusing tall tale, with a social/political message with which they’ll probably agree (any sane person would), will enjoy the book.

Recommended.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia.

Free Radicals front cover

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia

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