River of Teeth
Written by Sarah Gailey
Published by Tor

In a lot of ways, River of Teeth is your typical western, you have your wronged hero out for revenge, the manipulative riverboat gambling entrepreneur out to fix the system, and of course, a lake full of hungry feral hippos. A clever and unique alternate history, Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth consistently surprised me.
The basis for the story is an attempt by the U.S. government to import hippos as a food source in the early 20th century. While that plan fell through, Gailey took the idea and ran with it, pushing the setting back in time and populating her world with colorful Western archetypes. But Gailey made these tropes her own in a way that made me stand up and take notice.
This is a very queer book. Protagonist Winslow Houndstooth is unabashedly and unashamedly gay. Another character, Hero, is given neutral pronouns throughout, and these are accepted as given, as entirely mundane by the characters. Gailey writes these characters, their motivations and their reactions with a deft hand and clear understanding. There is no justification, there is no unnecessary explanation. She presents us her rich palate deep characters, and gets to the good stuff: Hippo cowboy antics.
The caper, or operation as is repeatedly corrected by the main character, is worthy of a big-budget heist. The weirdness of the concept, and the fact that it is based on equally weird historical fact, adds to the richness of the story, rather than detract from it. A stampede is exciting and dangerous. A 3,000 lb. bull hippopotamus is something else altogether.
River of Teeth is another outstanding novella from Tor’s line. You can find it on their site, or from Amazon and other online bookstores. I recommend picking it up before the sequel, Taste of Marrow comes out next month.

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