This is my first experience with Stephen Graham Jones, and I’m really sort of sorry for it. I wish I had started reading his work sooner. Mapping the Interior is a story about a boy who is being haunted by the ghost of his father. It’s a quick story, and the plot really is that straightforward. It can be read in just a couple hours.
The prose is easy to read but also had a really strong sense of voice, which I loved. It held a rhythm and cadence that felt unique to Jones. This is a horror story, and it’s a slow burn, at least as far as a novella can be slow. At first, the ghost just seems like a benevolent spirit, watching over his sons, but after a dangerous encounter with the neighbor’s dogs, we know that’s not quite what’s happening. (Content Warnings: violence against animals.)
The ending snuck up on me, and I wasn’t at all prepared for it. It’s disturbing, not necessarily scary. There are a couple flashes of horror between the beginning and the end, but it wasn’t anything that felt so horrific I couldn’t hand it off to a friend to read. But then the ending came and I had to put the book down, and stop, and digest, and think about it, and think about it some more. My initial reaction was that I didn’t like the ending at all. It was a little ambiguous. It makes you think twice about our heroic protagonist. It seems to renege on the initial conclusions we’ve drawn.
If you’re wondering why I was raving about Jones all last week, it’s because this book stuck with me long after I had set it down. It may be with me for awhile yet. I’ve been putting off this review because I’m still not 100% sure how I felt about it.
If I had one critique, it’s that Mapping the Interior often felt literary: metaphorical and symbolic and allegorical. But I was never quite able to grasp the meaning or the message behind it all.