Vonda McIntyre, 1978
Hugo Winner - 1979
Premise: Snake is a healer traveling on her first year out of training. After a heartbreaking setback, she is determined to return to her people with something worthy of the trust placed in her.
Looking at most covers of this book, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's a fantasy. The first few chapters don't do much to discourage the notion, either. The full picture of the setting and the lives of the people there is only slowly revealed.
I liked Snake - her attitudes and assumptions felt right for someone caught between being highly trained and being still pretty young. I could have done with a bit less screen time for the guy crushing on her, but he was inoffensive and made a decent spearcarrier/exposition man.
I do want to mention: part of the early set up for the plot gave me a real emotional punch in the gut. It's supposed to, so that you feel Snake's own anger and despair, but if you, like me, have a particular sensitivity to cruelty to animals and an intolerance of superstition, it'll probably hit you hard as well.
I can't decide whether I liked the overall level of exposition about the world. Part of me thinks it's perfect - that we see the outlines but are left guessing about many of the deeper questions. Part of me wants to know more. We're left, though, with just this one story, just one part of one woman's story.
One thing I’m sure of: it is a lovely, surreal journey to take.
4 Stars - A Very Good Book
List of Hugo Winners