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?

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Upcoming Releases for 2020

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

If It Bleeds by Stephen King

If It Bleeds by Stephen King (expected May 5, 2020) – This is the next novel in the Holly Gibney series.  I haven’t even really read the blurb- but like all new Stephen King books, I’m super excited for it.

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The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence (expected April 21, 2020) – Ugh – This year is going to be my year to catch up on all things Mark Lawrence.  I might even reread Prince of Thorns.  I’m super excited for this one, even if I likely won’t get to it right away.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (expect May 19, 2020) – This prequel feels like it is finally my chance to join in with everyone’s love for The Hunger Games.  I never read the books because I loved the movie so much.  I’m sure this book will get a movie too, but I plan to read the book first this time.

A Conjuring of Assassins by Cate Glass

A Conjuring of Assassins by Cate Glass (expected February 4, 2020) – This is the sequel to last year’s An Illusion of Thieves.  I loved that one and I’m confident I’ll love this one too.

Eden by Tim Lebbon

Eden by Tim Lebbon (expected April 7, 2020) – I’d tell you what this is about but I stopped reading after it said eco-thriller.  It made me think of another favorite author, Michael Crichton.

The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell

The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell (expected May 5, 2020) – This book is set in a world where magic is paid for in memories.  I’m both curious and hesitant about this one.  I can see it being really fantastic, but I can also see the premise setting the book up for trouble. Are there armies of people who remember nothing?  How does that work?  Is magic used sparingly?  I’m remaining cautiously optimistic.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin (expected March 24, 2020) – This novel is based on a short story that was included in Jemisin’s How Long Til Black Future Month? which released last year.  While I wasn’t sure I quite liked that particular story, I loved the concept and I’m hopeful that with a full length novel she can answer some of the questions I had about it.

 

These last three I’ve all mentioned in previous posts, which I’ve linked to below in case you missed them or would like to check them out again.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso (expected February 18, 2020)

The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey (expected April 14, 2020)

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (expected May 19, 2020)

What are your most anticipated releases for the first half of the year?  Leave me a link below so I can check them out!

Book Review: Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Rating:  ★★★★

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.

Mapping the Interior can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good horror story now and then.

Can’t Wait Wednesday: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Title: The Only Good Indians The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Author:  Stephen Graham Jones

Publisher: Gallery / Saga Press

Genre: Horror

Length: 320 Pages

Release Date: May 19, 2020

Blurb: Peter Straub’s Ghost Story meets Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies in this American Indian horror story of revenge on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Four American Indian men from the Blackfeet Nation, who were childhood friends, find themselves in a desperate struggle for their lives, against an entity that wants to exact revenge upon them for what they did during an elk hunt ten years earlier by killing them, their families, and friends.

Why I’m Excited for It: I think I included Jones in a couple posts recently, and he’ll be featured in an upcoming review, but I recently read Mapping the Interior and I absolutely cannot get that book out of my head.  I liked his prose from the moment I picked it up, and while I wouldn’t necessarily call the plot fast paced, the pacing was appropriate to the length.

Then I got to the ending, and I was just so disturbed by it, my initial reaction was: “I don’t know if I like this.”  But since I’ve put it down, I keep turning it over and over, trying to suss out the meaning and what happened.  Now I feel a need to go binge everything he’s ever written, and this story is no different.

My excitement at finding a possible new favorite author aside, this blurb sounds perfect for a horror story.  Vengeful entities and old secrets between friends?  Yes please.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Backlog

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week’s topic is a freebie, but there’s a lot of awesome topics coming up in the next couple weeks, about favorite reads of 2019, or most anticipated reads of 2020, so I decided to take a look at the backlog.  About 60% of my reading comes from new-to-me authors- so here are a few of the ones I enjoyed this year and would like to read more of.

Kameron Hurley: God’s War (Bel Dame Apocrypha #1) and The Light Brigade – I know The Mirror Empire was a miss for a few of my blogging buddies, and I do understand, but ultimately I enjoyed it enough that I’d like to read more of Hurley.  The Light Brigade is her highest rated book on GoodReads, and God’s War came recommended by a frequent buddy reader.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sylvain Neuvel: Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) – Neuvel’s novella The Test was one of my favorites this year.  While I wait for him to write something else wonderful and so perfectly relevant, I plan to give Sleeping Giants (and hopefully the rest of the trilogy) a try.

Wool by Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey: The Wool Omnibus – I flew through Howey’s Half Way Home earlier this year.  It was perfect for me, quick pacing, straightforward writing, and plenty of suspense.  Wool comes highly recommended, and I can’t wait to check it out!

Adrian Tchaikovsky: Children of Time, Redemption’s Blade and The Expert System’s Brother – As prolific as Tchaikovsky is, it’s kind of hard to believe I’ve only ever read Walking to Aldebaran, but it’s true.  I did start Children of Time once, and through no fault of the book (reading slump!) never finished.  I’m looking forward to jumping back into that and checking out a few of these others!

The Singer's Gun by Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel: The Singer’s Gun – I didn’t review it, but I listened to Station Eleven a few months ago and adored it.  It was a very surface level post-apocalyptic / sci-fi story, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  While looking at what else of her’s I might want to check out, I found the Captain’s review of The Singer’s Gun and immediately added it to my TBR.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde:  The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next #1) – I first heard about the Eyre Affair a few years ago, when I started becoming more active on GoodReads.  I put it off for a long time because while the blurb was very amusing, it wasn’t obviously my kind of humor right away.  Early Riser was a book club read for me earlier this year, and it made me laugh quite a bit, so I’m feeling ready to finally tackle this.

David Wellington: Chimera (Jim Chapel #1) and Monster Island – Wellington wrote The Last Astronaut, which I read over the summer and mostly enjoyed.  Until I started writing this post I actually didn’t even realize he had older titles!  Both of these sound like one of my favorite genre mashups: sci-fi meets horror!

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys: Out of the Easy – It seems like everything Sepetys writes turns into a best seller, which is why I was surprised to find this hiding on her booklist.  I got as far as “It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets” before I added this to my list.  Knowing what she’s capable of after having read The Fountains of Silence, I might not even wait until next year.

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Yoko Ogawa: Revenge – I had never heard of Yoko Ogawa until I read The Memory Police earlier this year.  It was surreal and dreamlike and admittedly weird, but somehow I couldn’t put it down.  So of course I had to look up which other works have been translated, and I knew right from the title I had to read this.  It’s a collection of short fiction revenge stories- and who doesn’t like those?

Stephen Graham Jones:  All the things.  I meant to read Mapping the Interior in November for Native American Heritage Month, and it sort of slipped through my fingers amidst some clunkers and the too many buddy reads I’d committed to.  I did finally sit down and read it yesterday, and fell in love with Jones’s voice.  The ending is super disturbing, but I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be in a horror novel, right?  Anyway.  I want to read all of his stuff, but here are a few of the titles that jumped out at me: After the People Lights Have Gone Off, Demon Theory, The Last Final Girl, and The Least of my Scars (whose one stars reviewers have admitted to giving it one star because it’s that disturbing).

Have you discovered any favorite new-to-you authors this year?  Who were they?

November: Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month!  I realize it’s also Sci-Fi month, and I would have loved to do a post dedicated just to Native American Science Fiction, but sadly I could only find a couple of authors, so I am broadening this to include Fantasy.

I do plan to read a couple books this month by Native American authors- and I wanted to share some of the ones on my TBR, and a couple books I’ve already read, in case anyone else is planning on checking out some Native American authors also.

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse – This is the second book in Roanhorse’s Sixth World series.  I did struggle a bit with Trail of Lightning, there were some things I wanted explained a little better and the plot was more loose than I would have liked, but the world building and mythology were all really cool!  Maggie Hoskie is a monster hunter in a post apocalyptic world.  I would like to continue the series some time.  I do suggest everyone check out Roanhorse’s short story, Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience, which is one of the more brilliant works of short fiction I’ve read in the past couple years.

Love Beyond Body Space and Time by Hope Nicholson

Love Beyond Body, Space & Time Edited by Hope Nichols – This is an anthology about Native American two-spirit characters.  I will be honest and say I’m not sure if 100% of the stories are #ownvoices, but I believe at least one of them is.  It was put up for a couple of literary awards last year, which is how it made it on to my radar.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline – This has also been on my radar for a year or so.  It’s a YA novel set in a future world ravaged by climate change.  Everyone with the exception of Native Americans have lost the ability to dream, and their marrow holds the cure for the non-dreamers.  Now they are being hunted down and made into unwilling marrow donors.  I think I’ve been putting it off, because it sounds really dark, but it’s fairly highly rated on GoodReads, and has won several literary awards.

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich – Another #ownvoices book about a world where babies are stillborn due to genetic deformities making them very large and difficult to birth.  The term the book used is “reverse evolution”.  We are shown the story of Cedar Hawk Songmaker as she is pregnant, and must hide it from the wider world, lest she be abducted and her (hopefully healthy) baby stolen.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t a good book for me, because the ending was largely ambiguous, which I dislike, but I wanted to share because it has the potential to be an excellent book for someone else.

Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko

Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko – This is also #ownvoices!  I have no excuse for not having read it yet, since I actually do own this one.  This is a fantasy retelling of the history of Native American people told from the POV of Native people.

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones – Stephen Graham Jones has been popping up on my radar quite a bit with his upcoming release: The Only Good Indians (which looks amazing!).  In the meantime, I plan to read this novella about a boy haunted by the ghost of his father.

Flight by Sherman Alexie

Flight by Sherman Alexie – About a young boy of Native American heritage that is flung backward through time as he is about to commit an act of violence.  I am hoping to get to this sometime this month, along with a couple others mentioned above.

Are you planning on reading any of these?  Do you have any other Native American authors to recommend?