Review: River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

May Contain Spoilers

I’m sure not what I just read here, but I’ll try to put my thoughts about this strange little novella in writing.  I have been eagerly awaiting this title for months.  When I read “feral hippos” I was all over it. I mean. Feral. Hippos.  Who doesn’t want to find out what that is all about?? In the end, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more hippos glory, and most of the characters were just down right unlikable.

Winslow Remington Houndstooth has accepted a contract with the federal government to clear the Mississippi of feral hippos.  Hippos are the other white meat in this alternate America in the 1800s.  Imported to address the meat shortage, some of the gargantuan creatures have escaped their hippo ranches and have taken up residence in the Harriet, a body of water created after the Mississippi River was dammed.  Since hippos are crabby and hungry, they pose a danger to everyone in the area.  Houndstooth is going to assemble a crack team to get rid of the hippos, collect a large amount of cash, and buy some land for himself and his hippo Ruby.

I didn’t like Houndstooth or his gang of reprobates and criminals.  I was thoroughly confused by Hero, Cal was scum, Archie was questionable, and Adelia was plum loco.  This team was supposed to put their hard feelings and personal goals aside long enough to complete the contract, but they quickly turn on each other.  So instead of hippo goodness, we have self serving criminals trying to stab each other in the back.  I could understand Houndstooth’s thirst for revenge against one of his party members, but he should have known that the destruction of his ranch years ago was the work of higher powers.  Everyone is out for themselves, and when the going gets tough, that is a deadly mistake.

I loved the world-building.  I even liked Travers, the villain of the piece.  How can you not like a guy who throws cheaters on his gambling boat to the feral hippos?  Only an idiot would try to cheat this guy, so of course one of Houndstooth’s men just has to try it.  Uh. Byuh byuh, crooked gambler scum.

I found the end far more suspenseful and engaging to the lead-up to the finale.  How can you not find explosions, killer waves, and those hungry hungry hippos exciting?  So, while I didn’t like the characters, I was hooked by the conclusion. I just wish there had been more hippos.  And fewer unsavory characters.  It was hard to get behind any of the protagonists of the piece, because they were all pretty scummy.

Grade: 2.75 – 3 stars

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

Sarah Gailey’s wildfire debut River of Teeth is a rollicking alternate history adventure that Charlie Jane Anders calls “preposterously fun.”
In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.
Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.
This was a terrible plan.
Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.