American Hippo: River of Teeth, Taste of Marrow, and a new short story by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I kept hearing about the first novella in this collection, River of Teeth, last year but just finally got to it in this grouping.
The backbone of these two novellas and two short stories ("Winslow's Problem" and "Nine and a Half") is an idea that never happened, but almost happened in the United States - hippopotamus ranching. It was originally proposed to Congress as a solution for meat production and to also cut down on the water hyacinth that was clogging waterways. It sounds crazy, but that's the alternate history world setting the scene for American Hippo. Instead of riding in on horses, the villains (who are kind of the heros) and the law enforcement ride in on... a water hippo. Yep. Instead of barns there are lakes, and different types of hippos have been bred for different purposes (speed, meat, etc.)
So the alternative history setting is unique and fun in itself, but Gailey really shines in her interesting characters. One character named Hero is genderqueer, but that's not the main point, they play an important role in the murdering sprees because of their poisoning knowledge. One character is obese (at one point worries about not fitting in a chair) but is also a skilled assassin and thief. One character is pregnant in one novella and a mother in another, but doesn't necessarily want to stop killing; it's her passion.
My only quibble is that two characters have names that start with the letter A and I kept mixing them up, so I do wish that had been a bit different.
But overall I laughed a lot, sometimes because of humor, but more often because it's so ridiculous and silly (it reads like a hippo western) that it just made me very happy. It's a pleasure to read, and an escape of sorts.
Thanks to the publisher who provided access to this title through Edelweiss. It came out May 22, 2018.
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