Finished “Dreamsnake” by Vonda N. McIntyre, the 1979 Hugo best sci-fi novel winner (also won the Nebula in 1978).
It’s a post-nuke-apocalypse story. While there are still pockets of radiation, the world has pretty much settled down to its de-populated, rather simple life. Some science has been maintained, particularly relating to genetics and biology (medicine). The story revolves around a woman named Snake who is a healer. While she is trained in and has knowledge of the above, she uses venomous snakes in her work, to help isolate antidotes/medicines and, in the case of the rare dreamsnake, to assist dying patients. It’s very important for a healer to be in possession of a dreamsnake, but hers gets destroyed (she blames herself, worried about what her healing order will do/say/think, but it was really the act of another that caused the snake’s destruction). So, she’s off on a quest to find dreamsnakes. Along the way, she meets a few dudes, rescues/adopts a daughter, and so on and so forth.
I guess I recommend it, the story was pretty good, but it seemed kinda light somehow. It is a short novel. The story revolves around the quest and the relationships; the science is background and, in a way, the MacGuffin (perhaps the case in all too many sci-fi novels). A strong female protagonist (still new at the time), and discussions of gender/relationships, and child abuse. Hard to get into a sci-fi story with characters named Melissa, Gabriel and Brian. But that’s just me.
As this reviewer notes, 1979 was not a strong year at the Hugos, with none of the other nominees still in print, save one of the Pern novels.
Russ Allbery gives it a 7 out of 10 (I suppose that’s around where I’m at):
Post-apocalyptic stories are far from my favorite sub-genre, but I ended up liking one more than I expected. Recommended for some strong female characters and a nice sense of atmosphere, although don’t expect too much of it.
This review at IO9 benefits from the writer’s conversation with the author herself.
This is book number 49 on my way to reading all the Hugo best sci-fi novel winners by the time I’m 50 (3 years remaining), and, thus finally gaining some Sci-Fi Web-Cred. That’s 49 out of 63 (14 remaining, all but one are in my possession) but there will be at least 3 more winners (possible ties) by the time I’m 50, so about 17 remaining.