Snake is a healer, one of a tribe skilled in using serpent poison to create vaccines and illness remedies, and who travel wherever they are needed to aid the sick and the dying. After the death of her dreamsnake – a rare alien creature with narcotic venom – she wanders in nomadic self-imposed exile, through the desolate wasteland of post-apocalyptic Earth.
Snake’s journey is a personal one, the world in general having little relevance beyond how it relates to her immediate situation. The complexity of her character is uncovered at a slow pace, and while this means it takes time to get a read on her, it follows that she becomes increasingly fascinating the more you learn of her. Far from the vibrant and lusty shield maidens often featured in genre settings, Snake is a taciturn and enigmatic presence. Throughout the story she is never described physically, nor is her age ever explicitly stated. She is her own woman; how she is perceived by others is immaterial to her, and we must be content with the glimpses of her life we have been granted.
While the story features a number of sci-fi trappings, such as the presence of alien life on earth and advances in science like genetic engineering and biotechnology perceived as common knowledge, they are treated as background details not integral to the story but mentioned in passing in such a way as to expand the scope of the world at large. Juxtaposed with the far-flung future is the insular tribalism that much of human civilisation has descended into. Each settlement on Snake’s travels has its own societal quirks and customs, and all are invariably wary of outsiders and the potential danger inherent in the unknown.
The disaster that reduced the world to a blasted desert wasteland of shifting black sand is never even mentioned. While radioactive craters suggest a nuclear war some time in the past, it’s a detail irrelevant to the measured lives people now lead. Time is only the here and now, and perception is nothing more than what’s right in front of you. Dreamsnake’s matter of fact prose style reflects this, and like its protagonist it appears straightforward and uncomplicated at first glance, but gradually reveals hidden depths for those who look deeply enough.
DREAMSNAKE / AUTHOR: VONDA N. MCINTYRE / PUBLISHER: JO FLETCHER BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW