Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Dreamsnake” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.86  ·  Rating details ·  9,782 ratings  ·  642 reviews
In a far-future, post-holocaust Earth, a young healer named Snake travels the world, healing the sick and injured with her companion, the alien dreamsnake. But she is being pursued. . . .
Paperback, 312 pages
Published September 1st 1994 by Spectra Books (first published March 1978)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,782 ratings  ·  642 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Dreamsnake
I abandoned this at about page 183. Why? I fully admit much of it is me, in this particular mood in my life at this moment. But some of the responsibility needs to go to McIntyre for writing what 100% seems like Women's Sci-Fi, 1970s-Style. Call it the Female version of Dune. Not to mention the novel-length 'plot' feels a great deal a series of short stories strung together into a novel. It turns out that my feeling was not inaccurate; the book sprung out of an award-winning novellete.

What's Wo
May 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
While this book gets docked a point or two for the cheesy 70s cover and the title, it deserves a place among the classics of the genre. I first read the Nebula-winning novella "Of Mist, And Grass, And Sand," in middle school, but I never realized that McIntyre had expanded it to novel length. It's a thoughtful adventure, a quest led by a mature and confident heroine, Snake. I love her as a character: she knows who she is, she is good at what she does, and she is comfortable in her own skin. I al ...more
Allison Hurd
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was really pleasantly surprised by this! '70s scifi and I have a rather antagonistic relationship, so I was hoping to read the late great McIntyre, pay my respects, and retreat to safer grounds. But this was delightful! I mean, yes, it was still 70s-tastic, but in a fun way, not in a stabby way.

CONTENT WARNING (no actual spoilers, just a list of topics): (view spoiler)
Mike Moore
May 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
Look, I read a lot of science fiction. Enough that I would mention it. So I have a pretty high tolerance for silliness. This book overwhelmed my tolerance and left me staggered by the sheer nonsense of it all.

Welcome to a post-apocalyptic future where isolated communities blunder about in moral turpitude waiting for an oddly naive young woman to come straighten them out with good sense and her trusty snakes. You see, snakes are used as drug dispensers in the future, and the woman (who's also nam
This is a wonderfully patient, subtle, and intimate novel, unusually so in the SFF canon. My mother was a nurse, which led me to being was especially drawn in with the healer Snake as she made her way through her travels.

Some of the pacing in the latter third was a little off, and there were aspects of the story of the major antagonist that didn’t quite make sense, but overall I’m very glad to have spent time with this multi-award-winning classic.
Wanda Pedersen

The publisher says:

They called the healer Snake, and she bore the name proudly, for the medicine she distilled from the venom of the viper she carried with her was a potent cure; and the soothing power of her other companion, the alien dreamsnake, banished fear. But the primitive ignorance of those she served killed her dreamsnake and wrecked her career - for dreamsnakes were dreadfully rare, and Center would not grant her another. Snake's only hope was to find a new dreamsnake - and on her ques
Apr 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was worried that I might have thought this early SF dystopia might have not held up so well after nearly 40 years of a never ending stream of them, but considering that I recently watched some early Mad Max films, I'm all good. We have to place these things in their time.

After all, where else are you going to get a surprisingly deep character and women's study dystopian future that includes aliens, nearly Bene Gesserit healers, the depths of adoption and justice, and a woman who embodies the s
My second reading, this time as an audiobook. Strangely, I had little to no recollection of the plot after the first chapter, the original short story, and that only the main event. So it was like reading it for the first time again.

I love the intimate nature of the book and the glimpses of a post-apocalyptic world influenced by off-worlders and some high-tech. It was an interesting approach. The main plot, which was not always clear (lose a Dreamsnake, work to get a new one and figure out how
A very odd book by modern standards, but one that is strikingly of its era. Manages to do some things very badly (dialogue, most of the characterisation (the central character is solid and likeable but a Mary Sue and not all that distinctive, while the supporting cast are mostly two(or fewer)-dimensional and also somewhat MSish), a lot of the plot details), yet do others very well (descriptive prose; setting and its exploration, some of the emotional stuff).

Sort of like a less-good Ursula Le Gu
Alex Bright
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars

I was drawn in immediately to McIntyre's muted, intimate portrayal of characters inhabiting a far flung, post-apocalyptic world. The story is of Snake, a healer who has lost one of her prized serpents which she uses to help people, and her journey to continue to help anyone she can. McIntyre's compassion for her characters is evidently mirrored in Snake, Arevin, Melissa, and the world she has created -- even if the world and its inhabitants are far from perfect. I found myself truly carin
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s the story of a traveling healer in a post-apocalyptic world, which the author classified as sci-fi but which feels to me more like fantasy. Though published in the 1970s, it mostly works quite well in the 2020s.

The story begins episodically, and to an extent continues that way: as a healer, Snake travels among small communities helping with their immediate needs. But early events ultimately set her on a bit of a quest, while a couple of the characters she meets be
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dreamsnake is a standalone novel set in Earth’s distant future, at some point after a nuclear war, featuring a young woman named Snake. Snake is a healer, and healers use snakes to heal illnesses such as tumors and infections. The titular Dreamsnake is a special and rare snake used to help a patient have pleasant dreams or, if there’s nothing that can be done to save that patient, to help them die without pain.

I have a few complaints, but this was an interesting and fast read. I enjoyed the char
Oleksandr Zholud
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a SF post-apoc (?) novel, which reads at times like fantasy. It won Nebula, Locus and Hugo Award in 1979. I read as a Buddy read November 2019 in SciFi and Fantasy Book Club group.

This is a classic SF adventure/quest across the world, unknown to the reader with hints misunderstood by the narrator, which ought to end-up with finding the Grail. The protagonist is a woman-healer called Snake. She wonders across the world helping people with her three serpents: an albino cobra Mist, a rattle
Glad I finally read this. Thanks Allison for her guiding questions in the SFFBC group read there since I tend to forget book contents right after I read it.

Here's my hopefully non spoilery responses:

I loved the world the most. It's a type of post apocalyptic one that I've never encountered, quite alien but also still retain most of the Earthy parts. I loved the technology, biotech, genetic engineering, everytime the book talks about tech my ears just pricked up.

As for the relationship among cha
Lost Planet Airman
This is REALLY good science fiction, without a laser beam or spaceship in sight. (There are a few spaceships out of sight.

Snake is a Healer, her name rarely given and apparently carrying much unseen gravitas for her people. On a future Earth she travels and uses alien and genetically modified snakes among her tools to dispense advanced medicine.

Snake's awesome; it's a much better world she lives in but there's still problems to be solved, for civilization and individuals. The feminist message wa
RJ - Slayer of Trolls
McIntyre expanded her own 1973 Nebula and Locus Award-winning novelette Of Mist, And Grass, And Sand into this 1978 full-length novel that swept the major genre awards (Hugo, Nebula and Locus). Published in the heart of the Disco Era, the post-apocalyptic science-fantasy story contains some of the Free Love hallmarks of the day, but has amazingly progressive trappings for its time - not only is there a strong but doubt-ridden, independent, non-violent female protagonist but you will also see non ...more
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 3,5 roundedup to a four.

I liked a lot of things about this book, especially the worldbuilding and the different groups of people Snake encounters. I especially liked the sense of equality and respect running through (most of) those encounters. It feels like that is rare in novels with a post-apocalyptic setting.
But while I felt for some of the characters, the book never touched or moved me deeply, so it never reached the point that made me love this book unconditionally.
Dreamsnake is the extension of the award winning novelette Of Mist, And Grass, And Sand and is set at the same time and planet Earth as The Exile Waiting.

It reads like a fantasy story like Tehanu for the first 50 pages before it becomes clear that it is a post-nuclear SF setting.
It follows a young, female healer called "Snake" within her probationary year. The eponymous Dreamsnakes are one of three kinds of snakes that healers in this setting use. They are irreplacable, because they rarely repr
Dec 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I thought the first chapter, which was originally an independent short story, was really lovely and moving. I enjoyed the world-building of the whole book a lot, especially the open attitudes toward sexuality and the use of snakes for medicine, and I thought the way the story slowly opened up to reveal more and more about the setting was wonderfully done. However, I was a bit let down by where the story went in the second half, and I found the fact that a main antagonist was (view spoiler) ...more
Dawn F
Vonda N. McIntyre’s Star Trek novel The Entropy Effect has been one of my favorite novels since I was a teenager. I’ve read it twice and have wanted to read it again for a long time. I was luckily enough to have a conversation with her about it, Star Trek and writing in general on Twitter, just a couple of months before she passed away.

I also promised her I’d read other of her work and well, ms. McIntyre, I finally did, and I loved it.

She writes stories in a way that’s rare today, where the surf
Ian Banks
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
This is dated in a way that most books around forty years old are dated but the setting and ideas are presented competently enough that it doesn’t really matter. It’s about a healer, Snake, who travels with three gengineered snakes that help her practice medicine. One of them is killed and she must find a replacement for it. It sounds like a standard quest story and in a lot of ways it is, but what makes it stand out is the easy prose that lulls the reader into thinking they are getting somethin ...more
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After first reading about this book on one of those Tor.com blog posts about women sci-fi writers I put it on my tbr pile and then kept getting side tracked. I finally sat down and read it due to a buddy read for one of my goodreads groups and it was just as good as the article said it would be. I was immediately immersed in the world from the first chapter and kept on being entranced in the world as it moved on from the initial short story and into the rest of the book. I like that Snake is det ...more
Andreea Daia
Quick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts
(I read this novel a while ago, but I decided to go back and write a review, since is so little known. And what a pity that is. )

✐ This is a very different kind of science-fiction and I read that the author had trouble finding a publisher since most folks took it for fantasy. In fact Dreamsnake reads like a classic western, and it's only the brief details (mentions of genetic engineering, craters of atomic bombs, collapsed domes of alien
Received to review via Netgalley

It’s been quite a while since I read this, and I remembered it fondly enough, so when it came up on Netgalley, I decided to request it and do a reread. I only gave it three stars the first time, which surprised me when I looked it up and saw the raft of awards it got: Nebula, Hugo, Tiptree nomination, National Book Award finalist… I remembered it being quite like The Steerswoman in the narrative style, in the capable heroine; I remembered that the background of th
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, post-apocalyptic, hugo
Having just finished the hugly disappointing The Vor Game in my quest to read all the Hugo winners, this was a welcome breath of fresh air.

It was controversial in its day (but probably not so much now), with its polyandrous and polygynous (why does my computer's dictionary accept the former, but not the latter?) family relationships, people who have sex for fun, and a female lead who enjoys male companionship but doesn
Jul 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
Snake is a healer on her proving year, travelling the vaguely post-apocalyptic landscape (there's always a vague apocalypse) to treat illness and injury using the venom of her snakes, but when her dreamsnake is killed she must find a new source for the extremely rare creature or she will no longer be able to work as a healer.

This reads like an Anne McCaffrey book, except with more restraint. It's melodramatic -- the girl's name is Snake! only three other healers have ever been given that name!!
Aug 08, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff-club
In my eyes, “cute” probably describes Dreamsnake best. I liked it and it did not feel overly dated. In fact, for a book written in the 70ties it was probably quite modern given its strong female protagonist and the friendship between girl and healer. I also liked how the world was slowly revealed, though my curiosity was only mildly satisfied.

But it also felt off. Generally, it seemed too innocent for a harsh world. It lacked adversity and anyone was so quick to befriend each other that I won
This book is classic seventies feminist sci-fi. It is also slow and meandering. It explores some interesting social issues. It is nothing special in my opinion, but it was a fun read.

I liked the main character. Her name was Snake and she used….yep…you guessed it…snakes to heal people. Scary snakes. Cobras and rattlers and snakes that I personally do not want anywhere near me. She was pretty tough and knew what she wanted. She had a few annoying moments, but was mostly a pretty good lead charact
Viv JM
Apr 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars, rounded up.

Well, this was fun - in a slightly cheesy 1970s way :-)

Dreamsnake is set in a future post-apocalyptic landscape, but it reads more like fantasy. It was more hopeful and upbeat than most such tales, and I enjoyed that about it. I like snakes, and I liked that they were used in healing work in this story. And the key to breading the "dreamsnakes" was fascinating and delightful. I really couldn't buy the romance aspect of the story, though, it just felt too contrived.

I listen
Tudor Ciocarlie
Apr 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-by-women
As with all post-apocalyptic books by women, this one has a wonderful gentle tone. Maybe it is because men always cause the destruction of the world. So their story must be a redemptive one. The stories by/about women are much more about healing and remembering.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang
  • The Fountains of Paradise
  • Startide Rising (The Uplift Saga, #2)
  • The Einstein Intersection
  • The Big Time
  • Gateway (Heechee Saga, #1)
  • The Snow Queen (The Snow Queen Cycle, #1)
  • A Case of Conscience (After Such Knowledge, #4)
  • Rite of Passage
  • The Uplift War (The Uplift Saga, #3)
  • Man Plus (Man Plus #1)
  • Among Others
  • Double Star
  • Downbelow Station (The Company Wars, #1)
  • Timescape
  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go (Riverworld, #1)
  • Sundiver (The Uplift Saga, #1)
  • Forever Peace (The Forever War, #3)
See similar books…
Vonda Neel McIntyre was a U.S. science fiction author. She was one of the first successful graduates of the Clarion Science fiction writers workshop. She attended the workshop in 1970. By 1973 she had won her first Nebula Award, for the novelette "Of Mist, and Grass and Sand." This later became part of the novel Dreamsnake, which won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. The novelette and novel both co ...more

Related Articles

When you work at Goodreads, you get a really good peek at the books that are about to hit bookstores. And, well, we get Very Excited about...
106 likes · 30 comments
“They said everything outside killed, so I thought nothing did.” 4 likes
“How can I tell her to be glad she's alive, when she knows she'll never walk on the desert again, or find me a diamond for some patron's earring, never gentle another horse, never make love?"
"I don't know," Smoke said. "But if you and Alex see her life as a tragedy, that's what it will be.”
More quotes…