11 July 2014

Thoughts on "Tuf Voyaging" by George RR Martin

Hello everyone! Today I decided to write a short review about a book I finished last night. I didn't go to bed till late because I wanted to finish it as I only had some twenty pages left! I've mentioned it a few times in recent posts, I had to write a post about it because it's such an interesting book.
This science fiction book discusses the themes of environmentalism and absolute power : "Tuf Voyaging" follows Haviland Tuf, a space-trader who becomes the owner of the last remaining "seedship", called The Ark, of the Ecological Engineering Corps of Earth. Ok, first I should probably explain the concept of ecological engineering. It's basically the idea of integrating ecology and engineering, and so designing (or redesigning ) monitoring and constructing ecosystems to benefit both the environment and it's inhabitants. (If you want to learn more about the concept, google Howard T. Odum) . So we follow this character on his journey through space, offering help to distant planets with ecological problems and his attempts at solving them. The book is an ensemble of several short-stories. I don't usually read many sci-fi books, I'm more into fantasy and post-apocalyptic genres, but I decided to give this one a go as I'm a huge fan of George RR Martins A Song Of Ice & Fire novels. 

First of all, I need to talk about the main character, Haviland Tuf. I have never come across a character like this one before. Described as an unusually tall, pale, bald, overweight cat-lover who seems to be rather content on living on his own on a 30 kilometer-long spaceship, he is an honest, humble man. It took me a while to get used to his language/vocabulary use, the only way I can explain it is basically he talks in a way similar to Spock from Star Trek. Although we know very little about his back-story, I found his character intriguing and I loved his wit and sarcasm. 

Not only do we read about extinct animals of earth, but George Martin's imagination doesn't seem to have any limits! Plants that live off air pollution and chemical waste.. to give you a taste, here is an extract from the chapter Loaves & Fishes :

 " This is our analysis of the thing he calls omni-grain', the counciller said. ' Incredible, really incredible. A gene-tailored hybrid, completely edible, every part of the plant. The stalks grow waist high, like neograss, very high in carbohydrates, crunchy texture, (...) but primarily useful as fodder for food animals. The heads yield an excellent cereal grain with a better food-to-chaff ratio than nonowheat or s'rice. The yield is easy to transport,  stores forever without refrigeration, is impossible to bruise and is high in protein.  ..."

and another from Guardians :

" From Old Poseidon came vampire eels and nessies and floating tangles of web-weed, transparent and razor sharp and deadly. From Aquarius Tuf cloned black raveners, poisonous puff-puppies, and fragrant,  carnivorous lady's bane." 

It's only towards the end of the book that you come to realize the ideas the author wanted to develop. At the start of the book, during Tuf's first problem-solving attempt, a reoccurring character points out her fears of what would happen if such a spaceship would fall into the wrong hands. What would stop this person from destroying entire planets with plagues and monsters? It is a seedship, containing millions of species (plant, animal and disease alike) from countless worlds, and so it is also considered a very powerful warship which can technically be very useful in terms of inter galactic battles. During the last few pages, you come to realize all the different aspects that would come along with the existence of such a spaceship. Can you imagine how different the world would be, if we discovered a way of transforming the environment to our own benefit? The different thoughts and ideas such a concept could entail, in terms of religion, philosophy and morality? Can being in control of such a power corrupt you? And let's be honest, if such a thing existed, who would own it and what would it really be used for? I love the world, or should I say Galaxy this story is set in, because the possibilities are endless. I couldn't stop thinking about what life would be like there, how the government would work, or inter-world communication and tourism. I've never read something so thought-provoking and engaging. The one thing that I wish we learnt more of is Tuf's life and back-story, I would love to know more about him. 

I just found out that this story is set in the same universe as GRRM other works, which include With Morning Comes Mistfall A Song For Lya & Dying Of The Light.

I would definitely recommend this if you're interested in science-fiction and the environment, and of course if you're interested in the concept of ecological engineering, modeling and biological warfare.

Please let me know what you think of the post, it's my first try at writing a book review! Now I need to decide between the last Vampire Academy or the last Mortal Instruments book. Ah, decisions decisions.

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