Book Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Rating:  ★★★★

I read SGJ’s Mapping the Interior late last year and was very impressed.  So impressed in fact, that I went through and added just about everything he’d ever written to my TBR.  So of course I was very excited to read this.

The premise is this: ten years ago, four friends embarked on an illegal hunting trip.  They knew what they did was wrong.  They did it anyway.  Now, something evil is hunting them back.

The story started out very strong.  I heard the term literary horror for the first time last year in reference to another book, and that phrase kept popping up over and over again in my head while I was reading this.  There was symbolism, biting social commentary, the imagery and tone were perfect.

There were times in reading this I was genuinely unsure if I wanted to continue- not because the book was bad, but because it was just that dark.  I cherished every single word I read in that first fifty percent.  I cared about the characters, I cared about Lewis’s marriage.  I cared about their friendships and their pets.  If this had been a novella, and had ended after Lewis’s part, I think it would have been damn near perfect.

However, after Lewis’s part, we shift POVs.  And while I enjoyed those parts too, I think the problem was that I was already so attached to Lewis I wasn’t ready to leave him.  I do wonder if I would have enjoyed this a little more if those parts had been switched around.  I don’t think either Gabe or Cass came across as sympathetic as Lewis did, so it was difficult to become reinvested in their story lines after finishing Lewis’s.

There’s a lot of basketball in this story – so the parts of this that talked about basketball I sometimes drifted off.  I’m less than five feet tall and have always been more inclined towards mental gymnastics then physcial ones, so it’s just not my thing, though I think it was used very well here.  Basketball seemed to make up a decent chunk of the second half, so the pace felt inevitably slower, hence the 4 stars instead of 5.

This is very much a supernatural story with a very supernatural ending, so if that’s not your thing this may not be for you.  The horror aspect is brutal and visceral – so consider yourself warned.  It won’t be for everyone.

But if you think you can cope with it- I highly recommend trying this out.  I was even more impressed with this than the last SGJ book I read, and I’m eager to read his other works.

The Only Good Indians released on July 14, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy.

Have you read The Only Good Indians?  What did you think?

17 thoughts on “Book Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

  1. To me this felt like three different but related stories bound together in one book, but I loved each section. I listened to an interview with Jones and he said he deliberately wrote Lewis’ story as a ghost story, the second part as slasher fiction, and the third part was a different subgenre of horror, which I can’t remember at the moment (I need to go look that up!) I thought that idea was brilliant.

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    • It is brilliant. And it explains a lot because I’ve always preferred the ghost story to slasher fiction. I just thought it was so well done all around even if I preferred one section to another.

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      • I feel like I would want to know that the book is three separate genres, like Tammy mentioned, before I went in. Sometimes SJG shifts around in his books, and I get SO LOST. For instance, I read the entirety of Demon Theory, Ledfeather, and It Came From Del Rio, and in all three books there were large sections where I just had NO CLUE what was going on and wondered if I should continue.

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      • Lol- maybe he’s getting better with practice? (Or maybe he’s getting better editors?) I didn’t really think of it as three separate genres- I can see what he means, 1st section is kind of psychological, 2nd is ghost story, 3rd is slasher… but it’s all horror. It’s one cohesive story though and I never felt lost.

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  2. Pingback: Some few / elky reviews – Stephen Graham Jones

  3. This one was on my radar as something to see what reviewers thought, and now that I’ve seen some reviews I think it would be way too dark for me. I’m glad it was well crafted, though, and if Jones writes something that’s less on the horror-side of fiction I’d be curious to pick it up and try it. It sounds like he’s a skilled writer, just not in my genre.

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    • Yeah… the only two books I’ve read from him were both super dark. He’s definitely a horror writer. I don’t know what’s wrong with me that this is my preferred genre but I love it.

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      • Lol! I just have to wonder what’s wrong with me psychologically that I’m okay with reading such dark stuff- but I guess if I had to point to one thing I like to see good triumph over evil- which I can *usually* count on happening at some point in a horror book. Does that make sense or am I just weird? Lol

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      • No, it makes perfect sense! I hadn’t thought about it before, but now that you mention it I can totally see it. Also, from the little horror I’ve read/watched, I think that the line between good and evil is often (though not always) easier to find in horror than in SFF.

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  4. Stories told through multiple points of view can be interesting and afford a wider understanding of the story itself, but I’m perplexed by the author’s choice of not alternating them throughout the novel but rather presenting them one after the other: the risk, as seems to have been your case, is to feel “cheated” when a character we started bonding to is shuffled to the sidelines in favor of another…
    Still, the book sounds very intriguing! Thanks for sharing 😉

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    • I think he did it because of the linear narrative- he was following where the action/horror was. So I guess it makes more sense in the context- but still, I definitely did feel a little cheated! I do think it says something about his talent as an author to make you care about a character we ultimately spent so little time with.

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