In the very early 20th century, the US was faced with increased immigration and a very real shortage of meat for its increasing numbers of citizens. To deal with this situation, Congressman Robert Broussard proposed a bill that would begin the import of hippopotamus from the African continent to the swamps of Louisiana. His idea was to treat hippos like cattle, breeding, raising, and slaughtering them to meet the increasing demands for meat. His plan, however, overlooked the fact that cattle and hippos are very different creatures. While hippos may appear large and docile, they are in fact very fast, can be very aggressive, and their powerful jaws have one of the strongest recorded mammalian bites (approximately 1800 PSI). This was a terrible idea, and it was probably best for all involved that it was never acted upon. It does, however, provide a wonderful “what if” for debut author Sarah Gailey and her novella River of Teeth.
Remington Houndstooth is a mercenary. When it comes to a job, money is the primary motivational factor. It certainly isn’t justice, and he has no illusions about being a hero. So, when the US Government approaches him about removing a pod of feral hippos from a bayou on the Mississippi River, he takes it because the pay is good and he knows he can pull it off, with the help of a crew that will need to be assembled. But he also knows that this job is special. It offers Houndstooth the chance for something that has eluded him and may never come again. He takes the job of eliminating the feral Louisiana hippos because it will also allow him to exact his revenge.
River of Teeth is a rollicking adventure through an alternate US where the South has been altered to accommodate teeming herds of hippos. There are still riverboats, gambling, action, and many of the other trappings of a turn of the century “gun for hire” caper, but all with the addition of “man-eating hippo mayhem” to use author Kevin Hearne’s turn of phrase in describing this book. The story is filled with a wonderful cast of characters, both quirky and diverse, all making their way through Louisiana astride their trusty saddled hippopotami (in a world where bayous and swamps have been intentionally increased in size, horses are useless as means of transportation or beasts of burden. Hippos, on the other hand, are perfect for both!). The writing is sharp, as is the dialogue. River of Teeth is an inventive and exciting adventure! The sequel, Taste of Marrow, is due out in September.