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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Book Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians 
by Stephen Graham Jones 
May 19, 2020 
Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press

ISBN: 9781982136451
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.

Four Blackfeet male friends go elk hunting on the reservation for one last time before Thanksgiving. Stepping into a section forbidden to all but the elders of the tribe, they come upon plenty of elk and shoot a pregnant 
female. The young one is taken from her and one of the men promises that all of her will be used or eaten because he felt ashamed to have killed her and her baby. But of course, somehow, some of the frozen parts of her were never eaten and tossed. She comes back as Elk Head Woman on a revenge quest to destroy all of them and their family. 

More than a horror story, there is a social commentary to this novel. Jones gives the reader a very raw look at the internalization of harmful behavior, not only outside of the reservation but from within as well. But more than how the Native Americans are treated and seen in the United States, there is the monster too, creepier and scarier, more because of what it begins as something we would never think of as frightening as a werewolf or vampire. 

Bored with the zombie, vampire, and werewolf stories out there? Looking for something different for the monster story? Looking for characters more fleshed out than just fodder for the creature? I think The Only Good Indians will provide that for you. There will be some confusion, some convoluted, all over the place story, but it does begin to flow with a creeping dread, slow burn, unhinged reality to grab if you are patient.

I give The Only Good Indians 4 sheep.

Reviewed by Pamela K. Kinney 

About the Author:
Stephen Graham Jones is the author of sixteen and a half novels, six story collections, a couple of standalone novellas, and a couple of one-shot comic books. Stephen’s been an NEA recipient, has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, a Bram Stoker Award, four This is Horror Awards, and he’s been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the World Fantasy Award. He’s also made Bloody Disgusting’s Top Ten Horror Novels, and is the guy who wrote Mongrels. Next up are The Only Good Indians (Saga) and Night of the Mannequins ( Stephen lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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