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Dreamsnake
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Book Discussions > Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre

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This is our discussion of the classic SF/F novel...

Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre

Winner of the Hugo & Nebula Award for Best Novel, 1978


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I'll note that the group (using the Group of Theseus hypothesis) has previously discussed Dreamsnake in 2015.

This novel is a significant expansion of a McIntyre novelette, "Of Mist, And Grass, And Sand" from 1973 (as well as a short story, "The Serpent's Death" also from 1978.) That novelette is available in collections such as Women of Wonder and several "Years Best" collections from 1973. (The novel doesn't make changes to the novelette; it's pretty much the first chapter.)


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) I'm in but I'll be starting late, probably not for a couple weeks.


Rachel | 526 comments I will be starting soon - a day or two


Clare O'Beara | 1142 comments I read Dreamsnake twice, a few years apart.
Our main character is a healer, which often seems to resonate with women more than a warrior.
Books I read which study the internet, claim that women are more likely than men to choose a healer class character in online RPGs.
Gaming Masculinity Trolls, Fake Geeks, and the Gendered Battle for Online Culture by Megan Condis
Gaming Masculinity: Trolls, Fake Geeks, and the Gendered Battle for Online Culture

Using the bites of genetically altered snakes as medicine is certainly unusual.


Steve Haywood I've started reading this, currently 15% of the way through on my Kindle. I started by reading the free sample, I wasn't convinced by the first few pages, but decided to take the plunge anyway. Now though, it's really drawing me in, I'm growing to like the characters, particularly Snake, and I'm fascinated by the world that is developing.

(view spoiler)


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Clare wrote: "Our main character is a healer, which often seems to resonate with women more than a warrior. ..."

Snake is an excellent example of a main character who is strong of purpose but not of arms.


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Steve wrote: "It started out as a slightly unusual fantasy world,..."

The author actually considers this scifi. It's not explicitly stated in the novel, but McIntyre says the world is Earth after a thermonuclear war (a popular SF environment back in the 50s-70s.) There are references to (I think the term is) "war craters", that make people sick or even fatally ill, presumably the bomb sites that are still radioactive. (view spoiler)

(McIntyre has a second novel, set in Central City, The Exile Waiting.)


Brendan (mistershine) | 743 comments I first read this book the last time it was a group read in 2015 (does that make me an old-timer here?) and as my comments from last time showed, I loved it, considering it an easy five stars. I have a real soft spot for sci-fi books that don't over-explain their backstory and for unusual main characters, and Dreamsnake fits both bills.


Rachel | 526 comments Well. One chapter in and I’m feeling grief over a snake.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Rachel wrote: "Well. One chapter in and I’m feeling grief over a snake."

So, how does that compare to rooting for spiders?


Rachel | 526 comments Also grieved for a spider recently so maybe it’s just me.

But I DO have a fondness for snakes...especially poor innocent ones. Don’t kill garden snakes or rat snakes people - they are doing you favors all the time!! The spider was a decently developed character- the snake was more...like say to say life - senseless violence and tragedy.


Clare O'Beara | 1142 comments Yes, she wrote a real feeling of grief for us.


message 14: by Book Nerd (last edited Jul 06, 2018 08:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Book Nerd (book_nerd_1) | 154 comments Finished it a couple hours ago. It was a really good story.


(view spoiler)


message 15: by Cat (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cat | 343 comments Book Nerd wrote: "Finished it a couple hours ago. It was a really good story...."

Spoilers!


I'm about half way through and am yet to be excited. There are some really cool/intriguing aspects to the story (snakes as a healing tool, the mysterious off-worlders), but I'm just not exciting about it. I don't really care about the characters. And I feel like a lot of characters are popping in and leaving - Grum, Jesse/Merry/Whatever that blokes name was, Gabriel. And despite the presence of the crazy, I don't feel like there is a lot of tension, it's more this happened, then this happened...


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Cat wrote: "I'm about half way through and am yet to be excited...."

I think it's not intended to be too exciting. Dreamsnake not only provides a fantasy protagonist who doesn't kick butt, but it doesn't involve saving the world, or even a town. It's Snake's personal quest for a new dreamsnake, which she needs to be a good healer.


message 17: by Book Nerd (last edited Jul 06, 2018 08:13PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Book Nerd (book_nerd_1) | 154 comments Cat wrote: "Book Nerd wrote: "Finished it a couple hours ago. It was a really good story...."

Spoilers!


Sorry. I did say I was finished.

Most of the characters come back in later.


Rachel | 526 comments I skipped some spoilers so - has anyone mentioned the fascinating method of birth control? How liberating!!


Clare O'Beara | 1142 comments Provided you can trust the guy to get it right.


message 20: by Cat (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cat | 343 comments G33z3r wrote: "I think it's not intended to be too exciting. Dreamsnake not only provides a fantasy protagonist who doesn't kick butt, but it ..."

I can appreciate that it's a different style to the norm of hero-saves-world fantasy/sci-fi, in that it's a personal journey story. And those kinds of stories can be good (although not my favourite reading) But even those stories need to have something to 'excite' or interest me in the story. Something compelling. And this one, sadly, leaves me cold so far. It's not a bad story, not at all. The writing is quite nicely done, and some of the descriptions are great as well as the focus on justice. It just doesn't make me want to read more. Anyway, I shall persevere.


Rachel | 526 comments The Melissa section I found so compelling last night I had to hold and read it while making dinner. And I felt angry when the spouse said it’s just a book. But perhaps I’m especially sensitive to abuse of young girls....


message 22: by Cat (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cat | 343 comments Rachel wrote: "The Melissa section I found so compelling last night I had to hold and read it while making dinner. And I felt angry when the spouse said it’s just a book. But perhaps I’m especially sensitive to a..."

Oh gosh 'just a book' that is the worst thing to say! It's never just a book! Especially not something that makes you feel so strongly, after all, it's a big part of why people read in the first place. I also have been questioned for cooking and reading at the same time before...


Rachel | 526 comments Haha glad it’s not just me.
He also is unfazed by pretty much any media - perhaps is never unable to suspend disbelief


Steve Haywood I have just finished this book, and I really enjoyed it. It was quite a bit different to other books I've read, a small scale science fiction novel that feels like a fantasy novel in many respects. I thought the character of Snake was really good, but the real star of the show was the post-apocalyptic world that was painted for me by the author, albeit mostly just a rough sketch with just the occasional details filled in. I do like post-apocalyptic world building and this was a fascinating one.

(view spoiler)

After finishing this book, I find myself wanting more, so will have to read The Exile Waiting now too.


Rachel | 526 comments Well I finished last night. I found it very compelling. I liked the narrower focus, and that you get few answers outside of Snake's personal story arc. I'm happy I read it for more than just knocking another award winner off the list. (Unlike say The Wanderer...)


message 26: by Cat (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cat | 343 comments Finally finished. For me, it was pretty middle of the road. There was nothing terrible, but nothing amazing either. I didn't dislike it but I probably wouldn't read it again.

I'm really struggling to put my finger on what wasn't working for me, but I think it was reflected in my earlier comments that nothing really excited me. While I liked aspects of Snake's characterisation (older woman, resourceful, determined), and the justice and social issues, the plot just didn't inspire me. The worldbuilding was interesting but felt haphazard.

I'm glad others enjoyed it!


Book Nerd (book_nerd_1) | 154 comments Cat wrote: "Oh gosh 'just a book' that is the worst thing to say! It's never just a book! Especially not something that makes you feel so strongly, after all, it's a big part of why people read in the first place. I also have been questioned for cooking and reading at the same time before... "

Is he a sports fan? They really love when you say "It's just a game."


message 28: by Ryan (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ryan Dash (ryandash) | 17 comments I was intrigued by the world. The city, the hints of offworlders, the domes. I was disappointed we didn't learn more about it. Particularly the mysterious domes. Does anyone have any guesses as to their origin or purpose? They didn't have a compelling reason to exist when we got so little info about them, imo.

Why did North suddenly decide to try to get bitten by the dreamsnakes, after (presumably) years of steadfastly avoiding it? It didn't make sense: it was explicitly stated that he was free from bites, and implied that he kept control of his followers by staying "sober". Why would he throw this away? I don't see how a confrontation with Snake relates.

The ending seemed contrived. A number of unlikely events had to happen: Snake had to escape, survive a confrontation with North and/or his followers, Melissa had to escape, and Arevin had to find them - all at once. After this unlikely series of events, it abruptly ended. I would have liked some kind of epilogue, at least, where the trio make their way to the healer's station, we get some glimpse of what is to become of North and co., and maybe something about the city as well.


Kellie | 9 comments I just read this book this year, and it felt oddly unfinished to me. I guess I like explanations and understanding why things happen. Also, the different incidents in the novel felt disconnected in some odd way.


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Ryan wrote: "I was intrigued by the world. The city, the hints of offworlders, the domes. I was disappointed we didn't learn more about it. Particularly the mysterious domes. Does anyone have any guesses as to their origin or purpose? ..."

Given that the world is still a radioactive wasteland, the domes may have been built to protect a surviving population from the radiation, possibly even providing cleansed air.

It's true Dreamsnake doesn't give details of the origin of the current state of the world, but just paints those parts of it that McIntyre needs for the story. It sort of demands we either fill in the blansk with our own imagination, or not care :)

Kellie wrote: "Also, the different incidents in the novel felt disconnected in..."

As with many older stories, this one started as a short story, "Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand," which became the first chapter. So I assume there was some discontinuity between writing the sections, and multiple ending points.


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