River of Teeth
By Sarah Gailey
Paperback, 173 pages
What if the U.S. government had come up with a plan in the late 1800s to import hippos to be bred as an alternative meat source? What if after the plan failed, the marshlands of Louisiana were flooded with feral hippos, savage and all too ready to devour any man caught in their waters? This is a story of an America that might have been and the crew chosen to wrangle the ferals.
Oh. My. Gourd.
Guys, I can’t even.
This book was so much damn fun! I don’t want to say too much about the plot because the book is so short. But the story follows Winslow Houndstooth (ok, how awesome is that name?!) and the crew he picks to help him rid an area of the Mississippi of the feral hippos. While hired by the government, Winslow is also using this opportunity to exact revenge upon Travers, the man who runs a casino and makes good use of the ferals surrounding his property (he feeds people to them!)
First of all, how cool is this idea!? According to Gailey, this is actually something that was considered by Congress to solve a meat shortage at the time. I’m way into this cowboys-except-on-hippos era America that Gailey created. Feral hippos, hippos that are bred for riders, albino hippos, SO MANY HIPPOS. How many of you have read books that centered around hippos? Because I sure haven’t read any before now and I can’t believe what I’ve been missing. I need more of this genre ASAP (yes, I’ll be reading Gailey’s follow-up novella.)
Second, THE CHARACTERS. Winslow is a bisexual, gun-slinging, hippo-riding, incredibly dapper badass and I luff him. The culturally colorful crew he gathers is comprised of a non-binary explosions master, a large-and-in-charge French conwoman (who is my second favorite character), a pregnant assassin, and her sharpshooting ex-lover. They’re up against Travers, the quietly menacing owner of the land the gang is set to remove the hippos from, and he’s not afraid to toss someone to the hungry, hungry, hippos if they cross him. Ok, that was a terrible joke (was it even a joke?!) but I don’t care!
If you’re looking for a fantastic and diverse group of characters (a la Becky Chambers) and a unique setting (think Wild West, but with hippos instead of horses) then I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next installment and my only complaint (which seems to be my usual of late, as far as Tor is concerned) is that this was too short! Go read this book!