Jul. 5th, 2017

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A fun one, in the form of Sarah Gailey's River of Teeth. Gailey takes a quirk of history — a tight vote on whether to introduce hippopotami to the Mississippi River — and turns it the other way, imagining an alternate version of Louisiana — complete with a large man-made lake called the Harriet — were breeding hippos for meat is quite the thing. But even the best plans have flaws and now the Harriet is bung full of dangerous feral megafauna, making it well past time the government hired a group of outlaws and assassins and hoppers to deal with the problem once and for all. And if the solution comes with a solid side-order of revenge, so much the better.

Winslow Remmington Houndstooth can't believe his luck when the government hires him to carry out an operation to clear the Harriet. Along with the money, comes a list of people to hire for the caper: Regina Archambault, con-artiste extraordinaire, and her albino hippo Rosa; Hero Shackleby, a retired explosives expert willing to take on one last job, and Abigail, their Standard Grey; the deadly Adelia Reyes, the best headhunter in the country, and Zahra and Stacia, her pair of hops; and last and least, Cal Hotchkiss, fast with his pistols but prone to cheating at cards, and his Betsy, his Tuscan Brown.

Houndstooth's plan is simple. The crew are to travel up river and through the Gate into the Harriet, using their federal papers to get them past the guards. Once in the lake, they'll use a carefully tailored chain of explosives laid out by Hero to herd the feral hops towards the Gate, which they'll have opened, allowing the ferals through into the gulf and thus fulfilling their contract in on simple operation. Trouble is, practically everything about the caper goes wrong from the get-go, and Houndstooth and his people find themselves far too close to the villain of the piece.

If River of Teeth sounds a bit like a Western with hippos instead of horses, that ain't too far from the truth. The cast is to die for, with both the humans and the hippos feeling like well-rounded and complicated characters, while the setting is well-imagined and vivid, with a wonderful sense of detail — if you overlook the craziness of people riding through swamps on hippos!


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