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The Only Good Indians Stephen Graham Jones Main

"The Only Good Indians" Book Review

Written by Steve Pattee

Published by Simon and Schuster

the only good indians stephen graham jones poster large

Written by Stephen Graham Jones
2020, 320 pages, Fiction
Released on May 19th, 2020

Review:

There are writers and there are storytellers. Both are equally entertaining, and both fulfill needs that I have at particular times. For example, one of my favorite authors is Lee Child, famous for his Jack Reacher series. Child is a writer who can deliver action and witty dialog like nobody’s business. I generally devour each new Reacher novel within days after its release and have rarely been disappointed in any of the twenty-plus books I’ve read in the series. However, as much as I love his work, Child isn’t the type of author I’d want to tell me a story while sitting around a campfire. For that, I’d turn to authors like Stephen King, Joe R. Lansdale, and Stephen Graham Jones.

I can’t remember the first story I read by Jones, but I do know in my review of The Best Horror of the Year: Volume Eight, I said, “I’m convinced Stephen Graham Jones is mocking me at this point,” because his stories were standouts in the last three anthologies I had read up until that point. So after reading Matt’s five-star review of Mongrels, I knew it was high time for me to read a full-on novel by Jones, and boy did it both live up to and exceed my expectations. I was a fan.

So when I saw the beautiful cover (seriously, just take a moment to appreciate that) for The Only Good Indians, I knew I had to read it. And when it arrived on my Kindle, I immediately dived in and suddenly I was transported to that campfire I was talking about above, with Jones at the head of it, spinning his yarn.

The book centers on four American Indian friends – Ricky, Lewis, Cassidy, and Gabe – and the punishment they must endure for what they did a decade earlier. Because of what happened, a supernatural entity is seeking revenge and hunting them down. Who knew elk could be so terrifying?

One of the things I like most about The Only Good Indians is Jones’ voice. The style feels very much free flow. Jones skillfully guides you through this story, ebbing and flowing with the current. The way he presents it is very dreamlike. It’s like you’re on the river with no paddle, but you know you will inevitably reach your destination, and you’re patient getting there because the scenery is breathtaking. That’s what it’s like reading The Only Good Indians, and Jones’ words are the scenery. You just kind of get lost in them.

In about every review of Jones’ work, I always mention how powerful his words are, and that’s no different here. To put this next part in perspective, I’m a straight white guy who has not read nearly as many minority voices as I should. Stephen Graham Jones is a Blackfeet Native American and, other than him, Owl Goingback (Breed) and James Welch (Fools Crow), my experience with the Native American voice is criminally limited. With The Only Good Indians, Jones shows exactly why readers should invest in authors outside of their comfort zone and sexual orientation/race/religious affiliation, etc. because it’s truly heartbreaking the internal battles his characters are fighting that I would have never thought of or even experienced. He addresses stereotypes such as alcoholism and poverty as well as a Native American living in a white world, all without being preachy. Jones puts it on the table, whether you want to eat it or not, and just says, “Here it is; this is what we’re dealing with.” And at times it’s painful.

But don’t let that take away from the horror. When the entity collects her due, no one and nothing is safe. This creature is on a mission, and there is nothing that can stop her. What’s even more interesting is I don’t hate one character in The Only Good Indians. Not the four friends and not the thing that’s hunting them. Nobody is in the wrong here. This is superb writing because when you have a horror novel without an antagonist and it’s still engrossing as hell; that’s beyond impressive. All you can do is feel sad for all involved because, really, no one is that out of line and everyone (and everything) is just…broken.

The Only Good Indians is a fantastic blend of horror, trauma, revenge and retribution. Stephen Graham Jones delivers a novel that will leave you thinking about it long after you’ve finished it.

Grades:

Overall: 5 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US

About The Author
Steve Pattee
Author: Steve Pattee
Administrator, US Editor
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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