Ten years ago, a group of five Native American men went hunting on grounds reserved for Elders. During the hunt tragedy struck and now, all these years later, they’re about to pay for their misdeeds.
The Only Good Indians is the second book I’ve picked up by acclaimed author Stephen Graham Jones and just so happens to be one of the most wildly original stories I’ve read in recent memory. The book follows each of the four aforementioned men as they succumb to an entity looking to exact revenge from beyond the grave. While the first of the four doesn’t stick around for long, it’s with the second man, Lewis, where Jones really begins to play with both the psychological and physical elements of horror. I’m not going to sugar coat things in saying there was one moment in particular just after the first third of the book that had me saying, “holy shit!”
Jones doesn’t shy away from some of the more visceral imagery that goes hand-in-hand with the horror genre. There are moments here where I could almost feel my stomach turning, then again, those moments have to do with animals, which is not something I’m particularly good with. I’m not knocking Jones for that, nor do I want that to dissuade people from reading it, just giving you an idea of what you’re in store for. I mean, at its heart, this is very much akin to a dark slasher flick.
But Jones’ book isn’t just about gruesome death and destruction – he ruminates about the modern life of Indigenous persons who are divorced from their culture and land as they move away from the Rez. They have to navigate through a world that thinks less of them while also dealing with the guilt from friends and family for leaving home. It’s a seemingly winless situation that leads to constant introspection and a certainly level of pressure that is difficult to get out from under.
The Only Good Indians is the first of many books I will read in 2021 and has already set the bar pretty high for all that will follow. While I was ambivalent about the first book of his that I had read, The Only Good Indians has made damn sure I will explore the rest of his catalog.
What he didn’t say was that you don’t get cold-resistant because your jackets suck, you just stop complaining about it after a while, because complaining doesn’t make you any warmer.