Rather than a full novel this is a collection of short stories published around the late seventies, early eighties that have been cobbled together. They are concerned with the exploits of unexpected hero Haviland Tuf after he seems by default to adopt the Ark, a gigantic space cruiser capable of altering the ecosystems of a planet. This collection of novellas relates Tuf’s journeys across the universe solving various planets’ environmental disasters, accompanied only by his collection of cats.
The writing has a whimsical tone in an almost Wodehouse style and some minor comparisons can possibly be drawn with ‘Red Dwarf’. Although not laugh out loud comedic, there is a subtle sense of amusement throughout that is likely to keep the reader entertained. Much of the content appears to be subtly and cleverly mocking politics, religion and big business.
Fans of ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’ can expect the same quality but not the wealth of characters. There are few significant characters and only a couple of recurring ones. The emphasis is more about Tuf and how he uses wit and intelligence to solve the problems his clients face.
Haviland Tuf himself is a strange but somewhat endearing character. He is far removed from what the usual expectations of what a science fiction hero should be and this, coupled with the fact that he reveals little about himself, makes him a very intriguing individual. He certainly has some sort of appeal and charm that always puts the reader on his side. There is also something of Jeeves about the way he politely schemes and manipulates people.
With the huge success of ‘Game of Thrones’ rumours of a possible television programme based around Tuf’s exploits seem to be doing the rounds. As yet they are unsubstantiated. How much they would be based around this book if it ever happened are unknown.
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