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(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Martin is well known in science fiction for his fertility of invention, especially in the creation of monstrous and threatening worlds. He displays this talent to the full in his presentation of the “bio-wars” of Tuf Voyaging. The monsters that are released on the decks of the seedship in “Plague Star” include a “hooded dracula,” “hellkittens,” a “rolleram,” and a “walking-web,” as well as a tyrannosaur. The fighting beasts for Norn and the monsters used on both sides on the water world are also brilliantly imagined. Martin uses his imagination in a more peaceful mode in creating food plants for every possible ecological niche as a temporary solution to the population explosion of S’uthlam.

A further attraction of Tuf Voyaging is the character of the hero, distinguished not only by his antiheroic girth, physical laziness, and love for cats but also by his characteristic mode of speech, which is ironic, unemotional, understated, and frequently misunderstood by his employers. Underlying the entire sequence are serious points both about ecology and about the aggressive behavior patterns of much contemporary fiction. In Tuf Voyaging, the urge to reach for a blaster or call up a space armada never works: True solutions are always unexpected. To find them, one needs to understand the entire situation, which includes those demanding a solution, who invariably prove to be part of the problem.

In the three-story S’uthlam sequence, Martin dramatizes the basic problem of overpopulation. Overpopulation, he shows, is never cured by providing more resources, for resources are always in the end finite. The cure is to reduce...

(The entire section is 406 words.)