Thursday, July 2, 2020

Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Gallery/Saga Press
Publication Date: July 14th, 2020
Hardcover. 320 pages

About The Only Good Indians:

"The creeping horror of Paul Tremblay meets Tommy Orange’s There There in a dark novel of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones. 

Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way."

The Only Good Indians was one of the most pleasantly surprising and hard-hitting books that I've read so far this year. This book was a huge gut punch at times, incredible raw and haunting, but also stunning and I genuinely loved it. This was a tough read at times (especially pertaining to animals), but absolutely worth it.

This story centers around a traumatic event that four Blackfeet Indian men, Lewis, Gabe, Cass, and Ricky were a part of about ten years ago involving some elk--an event that has stayed with the four men and has begun to follow them around in different ways, haunting each. The Only Good Indians is divided into three main sections, each following a different POV. The first follows Lewis as he finds himself being haunted by the image of the dead elk that he hunted and killed years ago with his friends. The second follows an unnamed woman that I don't want to say too much about, and the third section follows Gabe's daughter, Denorah. When I first realized that the book was going to have such drastic changes between sections, I was a little unsure if it would feel like a smooth transition or not, but I regret doubting Jones because it turned out to be so carefully done and effortless in transitioning from one perspective to the next, all while maintaining the same overall tone and atmosphere of some darkness and unease that seeps into the story from page one.

One of the things that stood out to me the most about The Only Good Indians and Stephen Graham Jones' writing was his strong attention to detail. Nothing mentioned was ever extraneous, but always served a purpose in the either the plot, in creating atmosphere, or in exploring themes and ideas. Lewis' sort of slow descent in paranoia was a particularly striking and compelling section for all the small details that Jones litters throughout that stick in your mind in the creepiest and best way possible. As an added plus, this book really was an unpredictable journey that had me verbally exclaiming at different unexpected or shocking moments, which made this an even better and more entertaining experience than it already was.

Jones has created something really special with this book. This is a book that will make you feel uncomfortable, possibly anxious, uncertain, and he does it all in such a deft and meaningful way that makes it hard not to fall into the story and become a part of everything the characters struggle with. This isn't just a story about revenge, but rather one that focuses on the cultural identity of the Native Blackfeet and everything that comes with that identity in this world.

As a word of caution to anyone who is sensitive to violence and/or violence involving animals, this book does have a few more disturbing moments that you should be aware of going into it.

Overall, it's an easy five stars from me. This book has stayed with me ever since I first picked it up, as it is a truly masterful work of heartbreak, horror, and devastation, as well as a breathtakingly haunting piece of fiction that will grab you and not let you go. I am already planning to dive into more of Stephen Graham's Jones work!

1 comment:

  1. Yes, this book is such a stand out this year, and his skill as a writer blew me away. I'm still thinking about it!