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Vonda N. McIntyre

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Title: Dreamsnake
Author: Vonda N. McIntyre
Year: 1978

Winners of both the Hugo and the Nebula Award are usually very good (see for instance Dune, The Gods Themselves and Ender’s Game). It might not be in a way I feel is important, but it is always easy to spot why other people think any particular novel in this genre is excellent. Sadly, this is not the case with Vonda N. McIntyre’s Dreamsnake.

In this 1978 novel, the reader follows a young healer called Snake through her first exploratory year away from her teachers at home. She and her colleagues make use of snakes to produces antidotes, vaccines and a whole array of medicines to cure and aid the sick who inhabit a post nuclear war desert. When one of Snake’s serpents, the dreamsnake, is accidentally slain, she has to find a substitute or face grave consequences when she returns to the healers’ station.

I admit that the setting is nice. I like deserts and I like fantasy in deserts as well. Sadly, that is not enough to make a good novel. The story is extremely weak and sports no unique features or nothing at all out of the ordinary. Indeed, the whole basis for her adventure feels weak in the first, because I never grasped what was so important with the dreamsnake. Supposedly, it helps people to die without pain, but why should there be so much fuss about such a snake? Why is it impossible to be a healer without this capability? I have no idea, which undermines the whole story because this is what it is all about.

There is not much else that interests me either. The language is adequate, but very far from being brilliant. The same goes for characters, dialogue, and almost any aspect of the novel except for the setting, which I have already said I liked. This is not enough to make this book worthwhile and I have decided to give it two and a half snails. If anyone fancies Dreamsnake, please tell me why, because as it is now, I have really no idea at all how it could manage to win both the Hugo and the Nebula Award.

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