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The Only Good Indians

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Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley & the publisher for providing with a copy of they novel to read & review. The Only Good Indians is a wild ride that mixes American Indian traditions with supernatural horror that will both frighten you while spurring you on to read "just one more chapter." Stephen Graham Jones masterfully creates sympathetic characters that wrestle their personal demons as they are confronted with a being hellbent on taking revenge on these men for the sins committed in their capricious youth. In fact, Mr. Jones artfully made me feel torn as I found myself alternately rooting for the men to survive & feeling an empathetic pull toward the justice of their punisher. The Only Good Indians is definitely NOT for the faint of heart, but for true horror fans, this novel has so much to offer!
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I loved the first half of this book, and the theme of revenge.
Years ago, four Native Americans went hunting, and their lives were forever changed.

Has revenge manifested as a supernatural being? Or perhaps the weight of  living under this oppressive cloud of guilt  is so heavy that it has caused paranoia to set in. The guilt has certainly become a pervasive and tangible thing. Palpable, visible. inescapable to the end, and I loved it. I enjoyed the characters. flaws and all. I enjoyed the slow build up and the ever increasing creeping fear. However at about or right before the halfway mark there was what seemed to be the climax and then instead of ending it felt almost like the start of a different book. Slower, more drawn out, even draggy in parts. Especially for people like myself who don't care a thing about basketball. I think the story line, while compelling could have flowed a little better.
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"Hair on the back of neck standing up" kind of creepy!
As the first chapters of the novel opens we are introduced to Ricky. He is one in a group of friends that committed a gory act over a decade ago as teens. By the end of that first action packed chapter, Ricky is brutally murdered. From that point on, there are multiple flashbacks between the past (when the group were all alive and young) and the present (some alive, some dead in horrific ways). In doing so the author allows for a narrative with character development and reflection upon the numerous issues faced by natives today attempting to live on/off tribal land.
The author weaves both contemporary racial issues into a creepy story that you will not want to read in the dark, alone. This is done through the use of native american lore and how the spirits are very much alive today.  However, if you are triggered by animal violence, I would not recommend this book as there are quite a few instances that are very graphic.
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If you like horror, read this book. Period. 

There's a lot of gore, but that's only half of what is going on here. There is so much going on inside the characters, including the elk, and their internal struggles drive the plot. Family, blood, and identity are crucial here, and if you miss their role you may be confused. Each person's memories and the stories told among groups tell you the truth of the backstory and the newspaper headlines hide that truth. This is one I'll be turning over in my head for some time.

Thank you to Stephen Graham Jones, Gallery, Pocketbooks, Saga Press, and Netgalley for an advance ebook in exchange for an honest opinion.
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I tried to give this book a chance, but after only a few chapters I had to stop. It just wasn't for me.
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Honestly, what can be said about this book that hasn't already been said (aka I'm SO late to this). The Only Good Indians drew me in from the beginning and never let me down. Although it was not at all what I was expecting I really enjoyed being drawn into this pretty bizarre world and learning more about the customs and lore from other communities. A few times the book had me actually questioning myself and what I was reading but in the best and maybe scariest ways. 

5/5 Stars!

Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery, Pocket Books for providing me with an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
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I loved this book. Very interesting. I recommended this to all my family members and my book club. The book moves so well and keeps you interested throughout the whole book.
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Not your typical horror but fantastic all the same! I was very impressed with the writing of this author. I have not read a book by him before. I will definitely look for more. Highly recommend I if you like this genre!
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I’m not really sure what to think of this book, I enjoyed it well enough but it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting it to be and I also wasn’t completely smitten with it either. I very much think this is a case of “it’s me, not you” because I do think this is a great story and it will find the right readers but it just wasn’t really for me. So here I am, writing a review with a rating right down the middle because it’s good, just not my cup of tea.

This is an Own Voices book with Native American representation, which of course is very important and honestly the narrative about Native American culture is worth the read alone. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book but the horror aspect of the book is where it really let me down, personally. The book follows four men that are being hunted by an entity after a tragic event that happened in their youth. I was expecting something with Native American lore or mythology mixed with the supernatural and that wasn’t really it at all, of course, I don’t want to spoil anything but it’s something I found to be a lot more underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty creepy, but not as horrific and terrifying as I thought/hoped. Maybe it’s just because there isn’t an explanation of the lore behind the entity hunting the main characters that I feel this way, because I love when lore is introduced and we get the story behind it. This, however, was just sort of there and I didn’t get that explanation I craved. I will say that I have a pretty healthy fear of elk now though…..

I think my main issue with the book was the writing style, I don’t think it’s for me. I can’t put my finger on it but it’s just something about the writing that doesn’t vibe with me. It’s strange and I felt really disconnected from the story when I read it. It made the story feel confusing at times, like I never could fully grasp what was happening. It also seemed really slowly paced and it failed to really ever pull me completely in. Which, again, is more a “me as the reader” thing. Because this felt so slow to me and I didn’t enjoy the writing style it felt like “nothing” was ever happening too. There isn’t a ton of action to start with but it just made everything seem kind of boring at times for me. I will say that towards the end of the story it does pick up quite a bit and it has a bit more action.

I also enjoyed the overall theme of revenge in the book, because who doesn’t like a good old fashioned revenge story? Especially when it feels justified. However, it does get a bit….morally grey. Which I also enjoyed. I really don’t want to spoil anything, though, so I’m not going to explain that further. I thought the ending was perfection too because when things get so dark and horrific it’s really nice to see a sort of happy ending. Speaking of dark and horrific, this story does get pretty gory and those where the horror elements I liked. It definitely did not let me down in that regard, played out like a classic slasher in my head when I did get to those scenes. However, it wasn’t the horror I was expecting which is why it still left me a little unsatisfied. There is also a lot of brutal animal death in the story and I’m not very comfortable reading that, I will include this in the trigger warnings but it’s still pretty rough.

We also do get quite a few different POVs from each of the four main characters and then some but I think my issue with this was HOW the story was told using each POV. You see, we don’t get all of them simultaneously but rather “in order” before each one…..ends. I felt like this wasn’t the better choice because you can catch on fairly early to what’s going on. We know what’s going to happen to each one at the end and I feel like if we got each POV at the same time it would have been way more tense. However, I completely understand why this method wouldn’t work with how the entity hunts the men but I just felt it helped the plot lose a bit of tension. Which wasn’t great for me.

The characters, though, are all fairly complex and I thought they were written well. The characters are really where this book shined because it’s a lot more character driven than plot driven. They’re morally gray and all have their demons, which is what made reading about them and from their perspectives interesting. However, I wanted to know a bit more about their pasts, it’s constantly being alluded to throughout the book but I never felt like I really knew them because of this. Therefore, when they all slowly get hunted down by the vengeful entity I didn’t feel too bad about it. Which, to be fair, is the reason a lot of us watch slasher movies. You want to watch everyone get hunted down by the villain. So, conflicting feelings on that but I think for me personally it has to do, again, with the writing.

What I Loved:

#OwnVoices Native American Representation
Slasher style horror scenes
Complex characters

What I Didn’t Love:

Writing style.
Pacing felt really slow to me.
Horror and entity weren’t really what I was expecting, not scary.
No explanation on the entity in the story, no lore or mythology.

Overall I do recommend this book, it just wasn’t for me but I still think it will be worth a look for a lot of readers. I would say if you’re expecting something really spooky and scary, either go into it without that mindset or skip it because that really isn’t the focus of the book in my opinion.

Trigger Warnings: Animal Death (Very Gory), Child Death, Death, Gore, & Mention of Suicide.

**** Huge thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ****
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An elk revenge story (!) that fooled me: I thought halfway in that it would never scare me, impressed though I was by the visceral brutality of the body horror (not for the squeamish, but not too much for me). How wrong I was, and how nervously I read the last act in the dark of my bedroom, ready to jump and run because Graham Jones was conjuring Elk Head Woman right there in front of me.

I have no authority by which to judge the cultural and historical context and content, except as a reader who laughed and felt heartache at the humor, the pain, the pride, the self-deprecation, and the generational conflict of the Blackfeet protagonists. 100% would reread. .
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In spite of what I thought was bad, I figure I should start with the good. 

The overall plot, or rather mythos, that directs the actions of each character and that moves the conflict forward is well established and thought out. I liked the way the creeping horror followed each character, and when it manifested to exact it's revenge the action was bloody and satisfying ( the reason I use this word is not just to give some hope for horror fans, but to also express my sentiments towards the production of the plot). 

The one aspect of this book that the author did well was make the moments of death and destruction come alive on the page. I could picture every aspect playing out in my brain, and the tension drove me to keep turning the page. These moments are the best parts of the story. 

But—and I wish I didn't have to negate what I just wrote, but I feel it is necessary—the way the story progressed was tedious. The sentence structures and the process of getting from point A to point B was overwhelming. I had to force myself to push through the story, which I wish I could say was worth the moments of death, blood, horror, but it wasn't. I am not sure how to explain what I felt, but I couldn't get to invested in many of the characters. The exposition was just too drawn out. 

Overall, I enjoyed some of the book and felt dissatisfied with some parts. Unfortunately, I was more dissatisfied with it than I enjoyed it.
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Thank you to NetGalley & Gallery Books for allowing me to review this book for my honest opinion.

I’m not sure where to start on this review.  I will say that this was better than I expected and was not sure what was going to happen in this noire horror.

When I was first reading, I thought, this is pretty wordy to me since there are some things that could have been left out with the descriptions.  When it actually came to the catalyst of this story, I missed it because I was not really paying attention. Then I was like wait.....did that just happen?  So I went back a few lines to see how it started because I thought the character, Lewis, was dreaming about something but in fact it was not a dream.  From this point in the story it really picks up.  The backstory is also picked up and the reader gets a feel for what is happening in full.

I find that this is a unique storyline and not a cookie-cutter story that has been recycled over and over.  Jones did a good job of the story telling, but at times is a bit wordy in my opinion.

I have always been fascinated with other customs and folklore from other cultures.  This novel gives you a tidbit into some lore in Native American culture, but there are at least two different tribes that are represented and not sure if it belongs to all or just one.  I do not want to give out any spoilers, but I do highly recommend this book for fans of the slow burn horror genre.

I’m really looking forward to reading more novels by Stephen Graham Jones.
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"The Only Good Indians" is fantastic, and so unique. This is not a typical horror book. If there is a genre of 'literary horror', this would qualify. I don't think I have ever come across another horror book that is written so beautifully. 

It is hard to read at times--I found I had to put it down for a bit while reading the hunting scene--it is so intense, horrifying and disturbing. Despite this difficult scene, I picked up and kept reading because I couldn't put it down for long. 

I have found myself often thinking about this book after having finished it, and I think that is one indicator of a good book. It continues to resonate with you long after putting it down.

I won't hesitate to read another book by this author, and look forward to his next novel.
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Thank you to Netgalley and Gallery/Saga Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review of the book.

Okay, I know I'm in the minority here but this just didn't work for me very well. I have a pretty mixed response to the novel overall, but ultimately I didn't find it terribly enjoyable to read.  I wasn't really familiar with Graham Jones so I watched a couple of interviews with him before starting this one and can say that I find him--the writer--to be very interesting. His explanation of horror as a primitive (really  a mother) genre resonates with me: it's how I approach and teach the Gothic to my students. I found him to be quite intriguing, so I'm sorry I didn't love this novel. 

What didn't work for me: I had trouble with the writing style; too often I had to read and re-read sections to make sense of the syntax. It is conversational and often borders on stream of consciousness dialogue, so much of this was surely intentional. However, it slowed down my reading. 

I also think I was a caught off guard a bit by approaching this as a horror novel. To me, it was much less horror than a (perhaps interesting) blend of several other genres: mythology, folklore, fairy tale, and a healthy dose of something akin to magical realism. I was very much reminded in this story of the Native American Deer Woman tales. If I had approached this in a different state of mind, I think I might have enjoyed it more. And finally, I'm one of those people who has trouble with violence to animals, which is not only prevalent in this novel but sits at the heart of the whole plot. 

I had trouble getting hooked into the story, then sort of did in the long section that follows the character of Lewis. Then, I have to admit, I really struggled through much of the middle. I'm glad I persevered till the end, though, because I actually thought that was the strongest part of the novel. I also would like to add that the author did a fine job of awaking the maternal and feminine into this story; many a Gothic tale revolve around a mother who has lost her child and the madness and horror that grows from such loss. Graham Jones made all of that come to life by the end of his story. 

As you can see, I am not able to simply write this off as a bad novel--because it's not. But it wasn't a great one for me. I suggest that you read it, maybe go into it with limited expectations for genre, and see how it goes for you.
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The best book I read in 2020. Fantastic. 

I might not have read it if I knew that dogs were going to be hurt... That's something I strongly dislike in media, but I'm so glad that I did.
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Stephen King brought me into the world of horror and I love the history and tradition of indigenous people so I was hoping the marriage of the two would make for a great book. However, it really wasn't for me. The gore and graphic details of that gore were just too much. It hurt my stomach. The story was gripping and the writing was impeccable however, I just wanted it to end so I could lock it up in a box in my mind and hope to not let it out ever again. I would 100% read another book by the author if it were not under the genre of horror.
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I don't know that I'd call this novel horror, but it's definitely the strangest thing I've read this year. I enjoyed it, but it took me a long time to get through it - that's partially because it started out very slowly, in my opinion.

Lewis is a Native American who works at the post office, though he never seems to go to work. Instead, he's preoccupied with what he believes is a sort of ghost of his past that is haunting him. An animal may be occupying the body of someone he knows, and for a while he's afraid it may even be his wife Peta.

A decade earlier, Lewis and three of his friends illegally hunted elk on a patch of land that was reserved for the Elders of the reservation. Something happened that changed their lives forever, and now it's coming back to get revenge.

I almost gave up reading this several times, but I legitimately wanted to see how it ended. This book is not for the faint of heart - it's rather gory and describes animal death in very brutal terms.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

The Only Good Indians is the story of four friends and Blackfeet Indians --Ricky, Lewis, Cassidy, and Gabriel-- who decided to hunt elk in a section of the reservation reserved for elders without permission, ignoring Blackfeet customs and laws in the process. They knew at the time they were doing wrong, but gave themselves the excuse that they were doing this for the good of tribe, so everyone would eat well that winter. They tried to be heroic Indians instead of good ones. The hunt (of course) goes horribly wrong and, ten years later, something comes for each of them to dole out the consequences of their actions: blood for blood.

Immediately after I finished this book, I knew that it would take days for me to process what I had read, to fully understand the complexities of the story with all its focus on identity, history, violence, and sadness. I'll attempt to make some sense of my feelings now.

There is no question this book was written by an indigenous man. Though it's certainly a horror novel, it's also entirely about native identities. Ricky, Lewis, Cassidy, and Gabriel (and the younger generation, in Shaney, Nathan, and Denorah) are constantly asking themselves what it means to be Indian. What does it mean to be a 'good' Indian or a 'bad' one? Should they lean into their heritage and life on the reservation or should they try to get out and make a new life elsewhere? There are many answers and all of them are both right and wrong. 

Nathan "hates being from here. He loves it, but he also hates it so much" and that conflict is driving him to cause trouble. He doesn't know how to resolve these ideas clashing in his head, so he lashes out at the world instead, much like Ricky, Lewis, Cassidy, and Gabe used to when they were young. He comes into the story because his father thinks time in a sweat lodge can help straighten him out, that participating in this ritual can make him better. 

On the other hand, Denorah wants to use her talent on the basketball court to get a scholarship to college, to find a way out, but at the same time, she's empowered by the racism she encounters on the court. People chant "Kill the Indian, save the man. Bury the hatchet. Off the reservation," and, most importantly, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian." But this is fuel for her: "Bring it, Denorah says in her head, and drops another through the net. If the only good Indian is a dead one, then she's going to be the worst Indian ever."

These adverse ideas of how to be better are all linked to history: personal history, tribal history, the history you inherit. Ricky, Lewis, Cassidy, and Gabe reflect on their 'Indian-ness' in different ways, but their fates are sealed by the illegal elk hunt, their personal history. Nathan, Shaney, and Denorah have their own concepts of tribal history, but it's been diluted through their heritage: who their parents are, what they value, how 'Indian' they want their kids to be, and what each of them think about that. 

Still identity politics never drowns out each character's identity. They may be conflicted about who they are in relation to their tribe, but the idea of who they are and want to be is much larger than that and more complex. There is no moralizing here, just people grappling with their lives and with real terrror.

Because this is a horror novel after all. There is something coming to kill each and every one of them, and damn if it isn't creepy, disturbing, angry, relentless, and almost vindicated in doing so. The inevitability of contact with this force constantly delivers punches to the gut:
"You look right back at her, your hair lifting all around your shoulders. She doesn't know you yet, no. She will."
"Names are stupid though. Pretty soon he won't even need his."
"The night is almost here. It's the one you've been waiting for."
"The boy keeps looking at the camper, like considering how to take it apart. Or--he can't see you in the reflection in a window, can he? Just your shape, your silhouette, your shadow? Your true face?...But it's better nobody sees you. Yet."
"You're no dog either. Also: There are no dogs. Not anymore."

It's like watching Halloween for the first time, seeing Laurie run in panic, and Michael Myers following unhurriedly, step by awful step. What's come to punish these men doesn't have to hurry and refuses to. It wants to take its time, savor the pain, enjoy watching lives and bodies fall apart. Reading about patiently waiting brutality that can strike at any moment builds the perfect sort of tension: You get to know these characters intimately, care about their lives, believe that they can be better men...! and then watch as things turn for the worst. 

"The worst" is gruesome, that's for sure. If you can't handle visceral, at times disgusting descriptions, I would skip this book. Normally, I'd say skip over those parts, but they're crucial to the book's success. Without such ferocity, the story would suffer. It'd lose it's credulity. 

One thing I never expected, though, was a gorgeous, sad ending. Without giving details, we're prepared for a one-on-one fight to the death, each side representing more than just themselves, and for a time, that's where the story goes, followed by the classic run-for-your-life. But once both sides are almost dead with tiredness and vulnerable, there is a chance to stop hunting each other, to let go of "your anger, your hate, it was coursing through your, and you got lost in it, and--" 

That's where I'll stop. You deserve the ending as Stephen Graham Jones tells it, not me.
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One of my favorite books of the year, SGJ can weave plots and stories together like no other author I have read before. An intense, slasher/horror full of social commentary on the Native experience. If there is one book from 2020 that you read, make it this one because it is just THAT good.
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As youth, Lewis and three of his Native American friends hunt for elk on a forbidden part of their reservation. They illegally and unintentionally kill a young pregnant female elk. This rash act of irresponsibility catches up with them ten years later when a dark entity or spirit of the elk they killed seeks revenge in a most violent and gory way.
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