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.
This is my first experience with Stephen Graham Jones. I have heard great things about Mongrels and even have a copy I have been meaning to read. Most of my reading life is filled with good intentions. It was not until I was listening to the podcast by Max Booth III called, Ghoulish where he and Stephen Graham Jones discuss the slasher horror genre, and some of the plot of The Only Good Indians, that I was thinking about him again. Then the publisher approved my copy on NetGalley. I was reading other things and this one kind of got pushed to the side. I finally started to read it last week. I was not prepared for what was to come.
The Only Good Indians starts with Lewis, a 30ish Blackfeet who is living with his white wife off of the reservation, rebuilding a motorcycle, delivering mail, and getting playfully harangued about this by his old running buddies. Lewis has a weird experience while trying to fix a light above the ceiling fan, seeing the haunt that he has pushed in the back of his mind for the past ten years, a moment that he much rather not talk about with anyone. Shortly after, a flirty coworker, Shaney, comes along, showing up here and there, not necessarily allowing him to keep his mind at ease, Lewis tries hard to ignore her. This of course does not work as well as he had hoped, and after a few meetings and clues, Lewis realizes that Shaney might be more than she appears to be. This is a nice spooky novel with a little mystery and a little some weird things going on….
And then shit goes sideways.
From the middle of the first part to the very end, Stephen Graham Jones had me hooked. I loved every aspect of this, and this is one of those novels where i did not sleep because I wanted to know what was going on next. I had a moment with my wife while reading this book because I was ignoring everything else around me, including her and the children. I could not explain that it was because this novel is one of the best horror novels I have ever read or that I was kicking myself for not reading Stephen Graham Jones sooner.
According to the author on the Ghoulish podcast, his definition of a slasher novel is one that is built on revenge. This is definitely a slasher novel by this definition, and it is cut into three parts. All three parts are equally interesting and all of the characters are memorable. Even though this will not get the attention that it deserves, I bet that most everyone who reads it will think that it is incredible as well. This is solidly on my best of the year list.
I received this as an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I will be buying a physical copy as soon as it comes out because it must be in my collection.