Verdict: fun premise, disappointing whole.
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Published by tor.com, 2018
Genre: Alternative History
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.
One of my reading resolutions for this year was to read more novellas – and I tried, I really did, but I am not so sure the format works for me. Which is why you should take my rating maybe with a grain of salt because it might be a genre thing. But, I struggled here and if the book had been any longer I do not think I would have finished it – but the length itself is also possibly the biggest stumbling block I had.
This is an alternative fiction Western – a world where Louisiana imported hippos, both a source of meat and as a form of transportation. Winslow Houndstooth and his crew are running a scheme involving a crime lord and feral hippos. I like that premise but I don’t find it clever enough to sustain the weak plot. The plot never has time to breath as we rush from scene to scene and later death to death. The story is quite gruesome and there are a few running gags that did not quite work for me as a result.
The characters could have been fun but there is not enough room to get to know them and as a result their actions often come out of the left-field. I did like how diverse the crew was, but there could have been done so much more here. The characters never came alive for me in a way that would have made me root for them.
This is not the worst thing I have read and it did keep me moderately entertained on a plane but I will not be continuing with the series.