Review: The Only Good Indians by 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.

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. Audio book narrated by Shaun Taylor-Corbett. Published by Simon Schuster Audio, 2020. Run time is 8 hours and 37 mins. *Possible Triggers: lots of animal death *

*I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exhange for an honest review*

Wow, ok, so this is an unusual book. It took me a few days after I finished it to really stew on… well, basically everything that happened. Not in a bad way! There are just so many layers to this story, that it really took me a little bit to unpack everything and really think about how it made me feel.

I’ll start off with what I didn’t like. There is a lot of animal deaths. And I’m not talking about a short paragraph or two, or a mention in passing sort of thing. They were drawn out and nasty. I hate violent animal deaths. It didn’t ruin the book but it almost did for me. It was a little much, but all the violence is part of the story, so it’s not a complaint about the author…. I just wanted to put it right up front that if you are an animal lover or someone else who hates to see the pets get killed, here is your warning.

This book is really good, BUT, it does take a little bit of time to get fully invested. Don’t give up on it! It’s got a great plot, but it takes a while for you to feel like you understand what is going on. The first character we really get to know is Lewis, and the way the story starts, we have a very hard time following if Lewis is haunted by a ghost or if he is crazy. For a good chunk of the book, it just looks like Lewis is totally bananas and there is nothing haunting him, or his friends, except for their stupid life choice when they were young.

In a way, these characters are haunted both by an entity looking for revenge and also haunted by guilt and shame they feel for their past mistakes. Even though the beginning felt like it started a little rocky because you aren’t fully aware of what is going on, I really like this blending together of the two different things haunting the friends- the ghost and their shame / guilt. Some how the author makes it two different types of haunting yet also the same haunting. Very smooth touch.

I thought that was really cool because the author did a very good job of showing how differently people react to something terrible that they played a role in. Even though we have the first half of the book from Lewis’ point of view, I didn’t really feel like he was the main character. The point of view switched often between the friends, their family members, and the entity out for revenge. It felt like I got to know each character, even if they were only there briefly, the author really gave them a defined personality with surprising depth. Now, at the very end, the switching between the last survivors and the entity did begin to get a little muddled and it was hard for me for a few seconds to realize we had switched point of views to the entity. (Sorry for the repeated use of the word entity. I don’t want to call it anything else because of spoilers! 😛 )

Normally… I’m not one who feels bad for the people who get killed off in a book (unless it is a series and you kill off a main character!). Not saying I enjoy it or anything, but I just don’t always care too much. Normally I feel like as long as you don’t hurt the pets or the wildlife, do whatever you want with the people! >.> Surprisingly… I ACTUALLY felt bad for basically everyone in this book. Honestly, I found it hard not to feel a connection with them. It may be a different culture, and I don’t know much about Native American way of life, but… everyone has made stupid mistakes. Everyone has anger at a past hurt, a grudge where they felt like they’ve been wronged. Who hasn’t felt like they made the wrong choice on a crossroads decision of their past? Have you ever had something taken away from you, and you feel so much anger you want to lash out whoever or whatever hurt you? To get revenge or to retaliate.

These friends did a stupid thing when they were young. They messed up. I hated what they did, the unneeded disrespect and violence made me so angry 😡 ….but there was a small part of me that had this… stabbing sadness at what happened with the way their lives turned out. Just…… sad. 😦 I was really impressed that the author could actually make me feel empathy for everyone, even the killer, when I normally have a heart of ice! 😮

I don’t want to give a spoiler about the entity, but I thought it was pretty awesome. I saw several reviewers complain about it, that it was a lame idea… but I loved it. I don’t know anything about the folk lore of this entity, but I thought it was beautiful in this book. UGH! I wish I could say more but I can’t without giving anything away! 😡

There are some insane kills in The Only Good Indians! 😮 Seriously crazy and creative. Now, if you are not a fan of violent deaths / squeamish with lots gore, you might have a little bit of trouble getting through some of these deaths? I do not have a problem with violent deaths and I’m not squeamish with gore, so I thought these were pretty epic kills. You knew something was going to happen, but when it finally did you were just like :O OMG!! The motorcycle one…. :O Whoa…

I listened to The Only Good Indians audiobook narrated by Shaun Taylor-Corbett. He really did a decent job. I thought his accents were good. I’ve seen a small amount of reviewers complain about the dialog being too stereotypical Indian accenty in the racist way. I don’t agree with that at all. If you listen to the author talk in interviews, he does have an accent just like what the dialog and narration of this book sounded like. I didn’t find it stereotypical at all… there was no broken English or choppy speech like back in the old westerns. A lot of Native Americans do have an accent. Some of those complaints just felt kind of ignorant to assume how Native Americans talk or don’t talk.

There are a ton of social issues all through this book. Lots of other reviewers cover the obvious one- racism. So I’m going to talk about what over all message I got from the book. One of the biggest social issue themes of The Only Good Indians boiled down to respect. Respect for your culture. Don’t be a jerk. Hey, whatEVER culture you come from, if there is sacred land or objects…. How about you don’t fuck with it? If it is special for a reason, treat it with respect. Special land, church, temple, ruins, graveyard, family heirloom, whatever it is…. don’t be a dick. Respect it even if you don’t agree with it. It is literally that simple.

Aside from the violence to the animals in The Only Good Indians, this was a really good book. I still can’t believe I actually felt bad for basically every single character. The author did an amazing job with all the feels in all the right places. You really felt their emotions and pain. Only a talented author can pull off that kind of emotion with every character. Yes, the book does start out a little confusing, but if you stick with it, it turns into a very interesting story of revenge. I loved the ending. Sad and sweet. And a great message of just STOP the violence or you will never escape it.

One thought on “Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s