Book Review

Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

We’re nearly at the end of the year and I’m tying up some loose ends. One of which is this audiobook, that I’ve been dipping in and out of for the last six months. This was a hard one to review, as it’s gruesome and brutal with regard to both culture and the genre. But it’s so rough and painful and honest that it’s quite impressively told.

Title: The Only Good Indians
Author: Stephen Graham Jones
Pages: Audiobook (357 pages)
Publisher: W F Howes Audio (Whole Story QUEST)
Publication Date: 23rd July 2020
Ownership: ARC audio from the publisher

Rating: 4 stars

About the Book

10 years after an event that prevents four Indian men from hunting on the Reservation, they have apparently moved on and forgotten what happened. Instead, going about unfulfilling lives where both the world, and them, have low expectations of them. But the past will catch up with them, for what they did was against nature, and against tradition. It is watching them from the corner, and it will have its revenge.

My Review

Maybe it’s something about me and audiobooks, or maybe this was a slightly more leisurely-narrated one, but I was really surprised when I saw that this book was actually just over 300 pages. It certainly felt like it took a lot more listening time than that required. However, the contents are certainly not to be rushed through.

This is good horror – the supernatural tied up with dark, gritty, nasty actions. Past events coming back to haunt people in inexplicable ways. It’s also guilt for these actions that is also tied up in culture and tradition, which is what I found most impressive – the integration of past actions not just of yourself, but of generations, and the weight and expectation and the failure of them. The story itself is pleasingly and entirely circular.

I haven’t read much – any? – own voices Native American literature that really deals with the raw guilt and nastiness and racism and internalised racism that these characters feel, which makes the incomplete title of this book the most perfect one possible – it’s the world in balance deciding this, it’s these men deciding this, and it’s the attitude of others too.

However, it’s also horrific horror. If you don’t like animal abuse, or really gruesome, bloody, gory scenes – and I can’t say I really do – then please avoid. This book won’t make you happy. I’m a pretty deadpan reader, but I cringed. A lot.

It’s also very fractured horror. The prologue sets up the story via Ricky, and then it seems as though the entire book will focus on Lewis. That idea is then suddenly pulled out from under you and ‘you’ become the entity, watching Gabe and Cass and switching around between these characters. I can’t quite tell whether that is clumsy or clever. It makes it harder to focus entirely on the characters, but I’m quite thankful for that, as otherwise it would make even more of a distressing story.

I received an eARC of this audiobook from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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