Cover Image: The Only Good Indians

The Only Good Indians

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Member Reviews

This was a spooky, chilling read. The story exists on multiple levels of horror, including Native lore, treatment of Native Americans, and a straightforward horror story. The story is told through multiple voices, including the monster’s perspective, in very much a stream-of-consciousnesses way. At times it was a bit tricky to follow, particularly when the author got very detailed about building a motorcycle or playing basketball, things of which I have no personal knowledge, but this might not be difficult for other readers.

Mostly, I enjoyed the slow buildup of tension and really not knowing how this story was going to end, with either a sad or happy ending. I think the ending, personally, was satisfying, if a little bittersweet. I think fans of dark and gritty stories will enjoy this one, though there’s a lot of introspection and internal struggle that add a layer of thoughtfulness to the story as well, so I think this story could reach a wider audience.
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I was super excited that Netgalley approved me for The Only Good Indians but this one fell flat for me. There’s tons of raving reviews so don’t listen to me and not read it. I will say, this is a unique story and it’s definitely unlike anything I’ve ever read. Sadly, I was bored over half the time and wanted to DNF but wanted to push through because I thought my mind would be blown. Something about the writing didn’t sit well with me, it was a little confusing. Also, this was extremely graphic with dogs and I hated that. This wasn’t for me unfortunately. 
Thank you to Netgalley & the publisher!
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Thanks to Netgalley and Saga Press for sending me a review copy!

Stephen Graham Jones has been on my list of 'authors I need to read but haven't yet' for some time. 'Mongrels' is frequently recommended to me and with my love of Lycanthrope books, I should've read it by now, but just haven't.With 'The Only Good Indians,' I was excited for it for a number of reasons. Growing up in the middle of nowhere there was two things that were always present - hunting and CBC. My Grandfather had a trap line for many years and when logging wasn't paying for all of the bills, the trap line would cover the difference by selling the pelts to local traders and companies. As well, hunting played a big role by stocking the freezers and when it got too cold to be outside or even to drive the half hour into the nearest town, we would have food. My Grandfather and my Dad always told me that you used all of the animal and what you couldn't use, you gave back to the land as a thank you.The CBC was a godsend. We didn't get satellite access until I was almost in High School, which meant for almost a decade we had three channels. CBC, CTV and The Knowledge Network. CBC gave me shows like 'The Raccoons,' 'On the Road Again' and 'Hockey Night in Canada.' But my favorite show was 'North of 60.' A drama about life in the far North in Canada in a small Native town. These two components came back in full force with 'The Only Good Indians.'

What I liked: This was a fantastic blend of indigenous mythology and real world issues. We follow along as four men hunt some Elk in an area where they are not allowed to enter. When a specific Elk is brought down, a spirit begins to take its revenge on the group.Jones did a fantastic job of creating palpable tension while infusing the narrative with social issues. It made me uncomfortable a number of times, as racial and stereotypical moments arrive and Jones did such a great job of digging in during those times. This is a book to make you stop and think, to question each scenario as it happens.
The hunting scene and revisits were just fantastic. An Elk is one of the scariest animals out in the wild. Having both hunted them but also seen them rush and attack an unsuspecting person, they are an animal that brings immediate dread to many people who know just what they can do. Jones walked that line of letting us know just how vicious they can be, but also how protective and nurturing they are.
Throughout, basketball plays a predominant role. It is the light or the beacon for some of the characters. Their way out of their situation. As I mentioned earlier, 'North of 60' was a show I watched frequently and that theme of 'trying to get out' was a running plot point. I use that show as my own reference point to this story because, while it is a commonly known issue for many Indigenous people, it is an issue frequently swept under the rug in most fiction and cinema releases. I found a connection with the use of sports, though, to try and get out. While I am a white Canadian, where I grew up, there was a built in mentality of 'this was as good as it gets.' To be born and raised there, then live there for the rest of time. To work in forestry or tourism and that was it. I latched onto sports as my way out. I didn't drink or party once I turned 16. It was a strange time, but it let me get it, even if it did alienate me from many of my former friends.  Jones weaved that narrative in time and time again and it really allowed the characters to jump off of the page.

What I didn't like: Similar to another book I read recently, I found the basketball scenes sometimes felt like it went on a bit longer early on. The scene near the end was absolutely necessary, but at the beginning I didn't connect as much with it.Additionally, there are some fantastically shocking deaths early on. Unexpected. I wished there would've been a way to have them happen later on so that it would've delivered even more of a gut punch.Lastly - as I mentioned, I am a white Canadian. I am male and at the time of writing this, 38. This made it a bit odd to laugh at some of the humor Jones peppered throughout. Don't get me wrong, the banter and character relationships were fantastic, but it's an odd thing to laugh along with Indigenous specific humor at times. I may very well be messing up what I'm trying to say here, but I hope whoever is reading this understands what I'm trying to say!

Why you should buy it: Stephen Graham Jones has crafted a creepy, slow burn that grew under my skin like a grub. The story kept growing and wiggling away as I read it and at times you can feel Jones put his foot on the gas, only to pull it back off and then ramp it up again. I'm so happy to finally have read Jones and I'll be definitely looking to dive in 'Mongrels' soon. For people who see this book all over social medias and on 'must read' lists published - there's a reason it's here. 
It's damn good.

*This review will feature on Kendall Reviews! *
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I knew I would like this book, and I was not disappointed upon actually reading it. Part horror, part social reflection, Stephen Graham Jones creates an immersive world with engaging characters that had be anxiously flipping pages, waiting to find out what happened next. I enjoyed the cycling POVs of the men who are haunted by their past, and the interludes showing the insights of the entity - the Elk Head Woman - only added to the narrative. I'm not always a fan of multiple POVS. However, in this case, I think it truly added to the tension and thrills of the story and very much so seemed like a nod to narrative structures of classic slasher films. Overall, an intense read, good for horror and non-horror fans alike.
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There's a detachment to Jones' prose in this book that kept me from really getting all the way into it. He's a deft hand with frights, including a few grisly moments in this one that made me audibly "eughhh," but the narrative fractures in ways that I couldn't ever fully get my grip on and the dread I was supposed to feel never quite manifested.
Still, it's got a strong ending and we love to see own-voices horror.
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Where to even begin with this review? I absolutely loved The Only Good Indians, but I can’t help feeling that I’m not the right person to write this review. So much of this story is wrapped in what it’s like being an Indigenous person in today’s society, an experience I haven’t faced, that I don’t feel like my voice on this novel is the one that should really matter. I hope I can do justice to this phenomenal book with the words below. 

Even as an outsider to Blackfeet culture, this story was absolutely gut wrenching. There tends to be a lull between the scenes of truly gruesome horror, but those lulls have terrors of their own. From encounters with police, concerns about fitting in with white society, and attempts to stay rooted in tradition without falling prey to stereotypes, this novel touches on the every day struggles that Lewis, Gabe and Cass face even before the “real” horror of the novel sets in. And the monster at the centre of the plot is not exempt from this perspective either. She is their transgressions against their tribe made flesh. 

I adored this book, and I would definitely recommend it even if horror isn’t your usual genre. This isn’t your typical horror fare. It’s important to know going in that it WILL be a slow burn and it WILL deal with some pretty heavy subject matter, but that only makes the story all the more heartbreaking and insidious.
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This is an amazing, impactful, and gripping book! It hit me in the gut multiple times; each time with more power and emotion than I expected. I know that I've read short stories by Jones before but this was my first novel by him. And it was incredible. I tried to sum up the plot to a couple friends while I was reading it but got weird looks from them. A "what the hell are you reading?" kind of looks. So I'm going to try a different approach here. The story is about a bunch of friends who in their youth do something they shouldn't. Then some years later, something happens to make them rethink what they did. It's vague. It fits the trope of many horror novels and movies. It sounds easy to forget or skip. Don't! The story will get you. Jones provides an excellent tone throughout the book. You feel what it is like to be one of the friends; the details of their American Indian lives are splayed out on the page for you to absorb. This sets the mood quickly and pulls you into the story. I thought I knew where the story was going when the pacing suddenly picked up and slammed me into the wall. I had no idea that "pivot" at about 40% of the way through was coming. I was stunned. I was lost as to what was next. The story continued and I saw the new pieces of the puzzle. I understood more and was again sucked into their lives. Then the second "pivot" at about 80%. That one left me in tears. Needless to say, the rest of the book was read in a blur. The ending left me drained. When I finished the book, I thought the story was about revenge. Then not too long after, I realized it was more about righting wrongs, fixing mistakes. Now, as I'm writing this, I wonder if it's about family and love. I suppose it's all about your point of view and perspective. A fitting conclusion for the book. I cannot recommend this book enough.
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I enjoy a horror story, but this one wasn’t for me. I could not connect with the characters and the pacing was in the slow side. I will suggest other books by this author to readers.
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The Only Good Indians is the second book, after Mongrels, I have read by Stephen Graham Jones and he has moved up in rank as one of my new favorite contemporary urban fantasy/horror authors. The Only Good Indians is unlike anything I’ve read before, yet familiar and its richness of myth and legend. Like Mongrels, it deals with transformation, revenge and fate. Scores are settled both by acts of violence and peaceful acceptance. Class warfare and societal oppression are clocked in folklore. This book is riveting, complex, thought-provoking and unforgettable.
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Definitely, this book is not for everyone. I am not sure it is for me either, but I chose it from NetGalley totally missing the part about it being of the horror genre, which I normally avoid. I started the book and when the horror part came, it was a bit of a shock, to say the least.  I had to decide if I was going to continue reading or let it go, so since I had already dipped my toe in, I thought I'd read a little further before deciding.  An hour passed in no time. There was more shock and gore, and I was fully immersed in the book (while a couple characters were immersed in blood).  

Not at all what I expected and not sure what the message was, but I am taking an uneducated guess that the author maybe thinks it's not a good idea to ever hunt illegally or kill more game than allowed.  Also never underestimate the power of any soul, living or dead, to exact revenge. The lifestyles of present-day American Indians cannot be ignored here.  You will not predict the ending unless maybe you regularly read horror and crave blood and gore.
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I think this is supposed to be a horror novel, but I felt very distant from Lewis, who is the person telling the story. The book starts out strong when Lewis’s friend, Ricky, sees an elk banging up cars and trucks in a parking lot outside a bar. Ricky has been drinking, and when a bunch of white men see an Indian and all the busted up tailpipes, they beat him to death.

The rest of the book is told from Lewis’s perspective. He is haunted by an elk he’d shot years earlier along with Ricky and two other men. To the reader, to Lewis’s wife, to others, it just seems like he’s losing his mind. 

The writing is good, but the story didn’t work for me.
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Two of the most important types of rules are legal ones and moral ones. Four young men broke both during a hunting trip ten years ago-- illegally hunting in an area reserved for elders, and one of their kills being a young pregnant elk. When the last of her meat is discarded a decade later, her spirit rises, aching for the revenge of her calf-- and she plans to return the favor in a manner as gruesome as her own death. This novel is an intensely wild ride, and it's good I had my face mask on, because the shock was written all over me. Truly, all the way until the very end, I was floored by the events and intricacies in Jones' story. Grotesquely captivating.
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I don't think I was the right reader for this book or probably more likely, this author. I have read one other book by Stephen Graham Jones and I also didn't care for it. I objectively think that his writing is excellent and beautiful but I also don't feel like I connect with his stories. If "too literary" is a critique, then that's what I'm going to go with. I firmly believe that this book is very good and that my lack of enjoyment is on me and not the author.
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Simply put, this book was not for me. I appreciated the horror story within this book, but my main issue was with the writing style. I think, frankly, I'm just too dumb for this book. Graham Jones used phrases I had never heard before, and I found myself rereading passages and phrases over and over again, trying to figure out what in the world was going on. I was confused to the point of frustration, but it seemed to be that Graham Jones was using words and phrases common with Native Americans, and being a white woman, I naturally wouldn't understand them. Many other people are loving this book, and I'm glad it's getting praise it deserves. However, it just was not for me.
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Thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for allowing me to read the eArc in exchange for my honest review. This book has stayed with me for several days after I finished it. It is an absolutely haunting story weaved from the lives of Ricky, Lewis, Cass and Gabe as their past catches up to them. This book uses exquisite detail of American Indian culture that is literary fiction slashed with unsettling elements that you will not see coming. Stephen Graham Jones has has achieved a masterpiece here. I never thought I would read a book chapter that is centered around a basketball match that left my heart pounding.
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A gripping premise, but for some reason the writing style felt a little emotionally disconnected for me.  That's a terribly obscure way to put it, and I will own that, but I can't put my finger on it otherwise.  I'm a huge character snob - I need characters I can love, or love to hate - either way is fine - but ultimately, they must initiate some type of reaction in me.  I just wasn't able to get emotional, one way or the other, about the characters in this novel.  Unfortunately, this one didn't work for me, however, the storyline was engaging enough for me to finish the book, and so I'd recommend others give it a try!
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Four Native American men  participate in a disturbing incident and later in life strange things  begin to happen to each  of them as the hunters become the hunted. I was initially drawn to this book for several reasons.  had heard good things about the author and I think its important to branch out and read a horror never by someone other than the King. Also its important to read diverse books and I have never read any horror books in which the protagonists were Native American and the author was as well (#OwnVoice). It helps that the cover art is bleakly gorgeous. I really enjoyed how unique this story was in regards to the specifics of the plot and setting. That being said the pacing was agonizingly slow and the horror aspects, while frightening, appeared with little fanfare, without buildup. The POV shifts also just slid right in with no warning. Overall I think this is a very interesting piece of work and while it is not my favorite I would recommend it to someone looking for something different than the run of the mill horror book.
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Seeing a deer or horns on a cover is like seeing a horse, I'm instantly drawn and usually can't resist. When I saw the rack on The Only Good Indians, I was instantly intrigued. I've also heard good things about Stephen Graham Jones's work and had wanted to read something of his for some time. Cover gut wins again, because The Only Good Indians knocked my socks off and is my first five-star book of the year. (I don't really rate with stars, but it seems like the easiest way to get the point across that this book kicks ass.)

Lewis is of the Blackfeet Nation, but he's been off the Reservation for a decade, living happily with his white wife. One day while up on a ladder fixing a temperamental light fixture, Lewis thinks he sees a young elk through the blurry spinning blades of the fan, lying on his living room floor. "And Lewis knows for sure she’s dead. He knows because, ten years ago, he was the one who made her that way."

Jones slowly teases the events of ten years ago, though their import is abundantly clear. Lewis and his three best friends broke tribal rules and entered a hunting ground reserved for elders. In a truck no less. The details are spooled out over the course of the book, but they are sufficiently bad to feed Lewis's growing paranoia and belief that the elk has returned for revenge. As he becomes convinced those around him are the elk in disguise, things get bloodier and more horrific. Watching things spiral as the hunted becomes the hunter is a bit magical in Jones's hands. It's just brilliant on so many levels.

The story itself is a gas, and while deeper themes run all through the narrative they are never heavy-handed. Of course there is basketball, because basketball and Reservation are nearly synonymous. I love that Jones's best hoopers are female, as are the best and smartest fighters.

Jones's work is billed as horror and while I get that point, genre labels can be restrictive and keep people away. I usually don't read horror per se, but there is horror that I really enjoy. Please don't let that label keep you away if you don't think you're a horror fan. It is gritty, don't get me wrong. Gird your loins, but dig in.

STREET SENSE: What Entertainment Weekly calls "One of 2020’s buzziest horror novels” should really be billed as "One of 2020's buzziest novels." I didn't know there was buzz when I picked it up. Buzz can be misplaced. In this case it's spot on. And when this is how the author describes himself, how can you resist: "Stephen Graham Jones is a Blackfeet Native American author born and raised in Texas. An NEA Fellow, and Bram Stoker and World Fantasy Award–winning author, Jones is the Ivena Baldwin Professor of English at the University of Colorado Boulder. Jones is into werewolves and slashers and zombies. If he could, he would wear pirate shirts and probably carry some kind of sword."

A FAVORITE PASSAGE: The door on Lewis’s side opened like a whisper, like fate, and when he committed his right foot down to the powdery surface that ended up being two feet deep, he just kept falling, his chin stopping a hand’s width into the powder the front tires had churned up. His forward motion never faltered, though. He crawled ahead like a soldier, pulling with his elbows, his rifle held ahead to keep the barrel clear. And—that was when the frenzy washed over him.

COVER NERD SAYS: I picked this by the cover. I have now bought all the rest of SGJ's work. I'd say that was a success. Intriguing, appropriately dark, a little creepy.
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I did enjoy this, just not in the way I expected to. 
The characters are compelling, and well developed. I liked getting a vignette of Blackfoot culture and social interactions...however the horror aspect was a miss for me. 
The horror here is a vengeful spirit, yet I never felt truly scared/tense/in suspense. Unsettled, yes, but not enough to trigger what I love about horror.
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Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read the eARC The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones.  

Well.. this book is certainly original.  You will not read anything else like it.  It is a slow burning horror novel, takes awhile to get going.  I found it difficult to read, it felt like it was all over place in some areas and it didn't have the best flow to it.  I am not even sure how to accurately describe this novel.  It is a combination of Indian heritage, revenge elk, a woman with an elk head and.. basketball?  I would really have to read this book a few times to make any sense.  I wish I enjoyed it more but alas, I did not.  I will post my review on Netgalley, Goodreads, Amazon and Google play.
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