Published by Tor.com on May 23rd 2017
Genres: Alternative History, Fiction
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.
She had me at alternative history novella about feral hippos in the Mississippi River. I pre-ordered.
I didn’t read it the first day it came out because I wanted to wait until I could read it in one sitting.
I wasn’t disappointed.
There are feral hippos in a section of the Mississippi. They are penned in by a dam to the north and a large gate to the south. The lake in between in controlled by a criminal who runs the gambling boats. Having large predators in the lake around his establishments is an important natural asset. The government wants the hippos out of the way so they hire a former hippo rancher with a grudge.
Winslow Houndstooth, a pansexual man from England who rides an opinionated black hippo named Ruby, puts together a crew for the job.
- Hero Shakleby- a nonbinary black person who is a demolition and poisoning expert. They ride a hippo named Abigail.
- Regina Archambault (Archie) – a fat French conwoman who rides an albino hippo named Rosa. Rosa likes to get her teeth brushed and eats pastries even though the vet said she needs to cut back.
- Cal Hotchkiss – He is a white man who burned down Winslow’s ranch. Winslow is planning to kill him but it helps to have a white man around to buy explosives. His hippo is named Betsy
- Adelia Reyes – A very pregnant assassin with two hippos named Stasia and Zahra.
I loved the world that is created here. This reads like a wild west story with hippos instead of horses. Of course, the job doesn’t go as well as planned. The story is violent as fits the lawlessness of the time and place.
My only complaint about this story is that I wanted more. (That and I’m sad about Ruby eating a dog named Petunia. Bad Ruby! Note that I am not particularly sad about all the people who get eaten by hippos in this book because I like dogs better than I like most people.) This is a novella that has a fairly abrupt ending. I want to know what happens. When do we get more?
September 12th, it turns out. I’ve already pre-ordered.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Books Set in North America
- LBGTQ authors/characters