Vonda N. McIntyre
Dreamsnake Cover



Finely-drawn characters inhabiting a detailed, believable world

This novel won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus SF Awards for its year, and it's easy to understand why.

Snake is from a tribe of healers who grow up learning how to alter the chemistry of venom in live snakes to heal different illnesses and injuries. Healers are solitary and nomadic souls who spend their lives in altruistic service to others, travelling through damaged and dangerous terrain on a post-apocalyptic Earth.

As the story opens, Snake has been asked by a highly superstitious and fearful people to heal a young child who is terribly ill. Perhaps due to innocence and inexperience, she is too trusting that they will adhere to her instructions. She leaves with the child overnight her precious dreamsnake, the venom and presence of which provides pain relief and the ease of sleep to ill patients, while she is off preparing the venom of another of her serpents for the healing session to come, with the assistance of one of the young men of the village. Her trust is ill-founded; she returns to find that the child's adult relatives have mortally-wounded her dreamsnake out of their fear it would harm the child, and she is forced to euthanize the rare dreamsnake which is required to practice her vocation.

Despite this and her personal grief over the loss of her reptile assistant, she manages to pull the child out of danger. But bereft of one of her treasured reptile companions, she is torn...

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There's an excellent interview with the author over at io9 entitled Feminism, Astronauts, and Riding Sidesaddle; I encourage the reader to seek it out (after first reading the book).