Stephen Graham Jones, The Only Good Indians, Titan (UK), 2020.
I don't often read horror but the genre has become recently a do-not-miss area considering the high quality of the books published. Some writers particularly stand out for me, and one of them is Stephen Graham Jones whose latest offer, The Only Good Indians, is absolutely remarkable.
Enter Ricky who is having a drink at a bar and then faces a very brutal encounter. Enter Lewis, who used to be friends with Ricky. Together, with also Cassidy and Gabe, they grew up on the same reservation. But Lewis now lives off the reservation with his white wife. There's that light bulb that bothers him in their new apartment. He climbs a ladder to fix it, and below him, on the carpet, he sees a dead elk.
Horror is created by the sense of helplessness. Of course, the title kind of says it all, doesn't it? You know what to expect. The characters don't. Their fate is unveiled to us in a linear fashion, following different points of view in the prologue, the first half of the book and then the second half. Because if horror is created by the sense of helplessness, good horror relies on how much you care for the characters. And despite knowing the title, despite shouting "Don't do that!" at your ebook, you are rooting for them and you watch them doing what they shouldn't be doing, leaving you heartbroken and horrified.
The sense of helplessness is also heightened by the fact that those four men are from the Blackfeet Nation, living in a country that leaves them little chance to escape mundane horrific fates. They are also stuck between racist stereotypes, traditions, and choices that may not be choices at all.
Yes, The Only Good Indians will leave you reading all night long because you'll need to know what happens next, but it is truly a character centred novel, however good and engrossing the action is (and the basketball match).
It is a story of stupidity, of regret, of loss and grief.
Yet, can there be hope? Can there be a place where everything comes back not entirely full circle, but with a glimmer of a hard fought future of your own choosing?
The prose is amazing. The characters are amazing. The structure is brilliant. The action is nail biting. Read it.
Maybe I should have stuck with only those five sentences rather than trying to give you a spoiler free review that must be maddeningly vague! As with every single book by Stephen Graham Jones I've read, it is excellent. Even if you don't read horror, you should try this one.
CW: animal suffering, racism, violence and gore.
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All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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