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River of Teeth, or why the hippo is my new spirit animal

·283 words·2 mins
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Daniel Andrlik
Daniel Andrlik
Daniel Andrlik lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia. By day he manages product teams. The rest of the time he is a podcast host and producer, writer of speculative fiction, a rabid reader, and a programmer.
River of Teeth
River of Teeth

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.

Sarah Gailey, River of Teeth

Sarah Gailey’s debut novella River of Teeth comes to us upon the back of this delightfully madcap concept, and we should all be very thankful that it did. In this alternate history revenge story, we follow a ragtag team of mercenaries that would have felt equally at home wandering the plains of the Old West. Instead we find them riding through an American bayou teeming with feral hippos. That their own mounts are hippos makes them none the safer.

There is more to love about this story than its premise. Gailey is a well-established short story author and columnist, and her first foray into longer form work has been highly anticipated. It does not disappoint. Her characters live and breathe on the page, and I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. My only complaint is that I did not get more time with them. The story moves along at a rollicking pace, much like its patron animal charging to attack, and by the time I turned the last page, I was ready for more.

We are all fortunate then, as we do not have long to wait. Her follow-up novella, Taste of Marrow comes out this September, exploring the aftermath of the events in the first book. I, for one, will be preordering it.


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