River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey (website, Twitter)
Her Grace’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: alternative history
I read it as a: paperback
Source: my own collection
Length: 173 pp
Published by: Tor (23 May 2017)
Sarah Gailey’s novella, River of Teeth, finds its origins in a little known yet true bill Congress had considered passing in the 1800s. This bill would have imported hippos to the Louisiana bayous to breed as an alternate meat source to cattle. As the publisher’s blurb says, this was a terrible idea. Lucky for us, it clearly didn’t happen. In this alternate history, though, it did, and now shit’s about to get real. Some hippos in the novella’s past had escaped their farms and bred and expanded indiscriminately throughout the area. These feral hippos are tremendously dangerous and like to eat people. (Trying real hard here not to make a comment about how hungry the hippos were since I’m sure it’s been said many times. They were hungry…hungry hippos.)
Former hippo farmer and mercenary hippo wrangler, Winslow Houndstooth, is hired to herd these feral hippos out of the bayou and into a safer, contained region. If they are successful, he and his crew will make a fortune and Houndstooth will get revenge for a past wrong done to him.
This book was so much fun! I love historical history, but not so much alternative history…unless it is one like this. Gailey pulled off an engaging, boisterous tale with complex characters, complete with their own motives, skills, and backgrounds. Houndstooth was the primary character, but the others were extremely well developed, particularly given that the story was so short.
One thing I really loved was how diverse the cast of characters is. Men and women work alongside each other nicely (mostly), there are characters of color, nonbinary characters, LGBTQ characters, a woman who is about to become a single mother by choice. So many different people are represented and I fucking love it!
Definitely recommended for anyone looking for a fast, fun, diverse read.