Emily’s Pick of the Week: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones’s The Only Good Indians opens on the anxiety-inducing scene of Ricky Boss Ribs running for his life. He’s being tracked and hunted… But is it by the horde of angry men from outside the bar or does it have something to do with the mysterious herd of elk waiting in the field across the way?

The Only Good Indians cycles through the points of view of childhood friends Ricky, Lewis, Gabe, and Cass recounting the aftermath of a fateful hunting trip. Ten years prior to the start of the novel, the young men set out on a trip to hunt elk. However, their trek took them to forbidden territory: land that is only meant to be hunted by elders from the reservation. This knowledge didn’t stop them in their pursuits, and the bloodshed that they caused will prove to follow them for years to come. As each man comes face to face with the horrible entity that’s haunting them, the tension rises to higher and higher peaks.

Part horror, part social reflection, Jones creates an immersive world with engaging characters that had me anxiously flipping pages, waiting to find out what happened next. I loved the characters, felt for them in my gut. And each of them drew me deeper and deeper into the story as I was apprehensively awaiting the next scare. It’s genius how Jones blends the horror of the Elk Head Woman and the horror of what it is like to be a Native American man in the United States today.

One of my favorite elements of the novel is how seamlessly it brings all sorts of classic horror tropes into the text. And I do mean all sorts! Tropes from classics horror books and movies can be found amongst these pages in a way that shows just how much Jones loves this genre. From the eyes following you across the room to the slasher stalking you down the street to the eerie horror of the uncanny – The Only Good Indians has it all.

Fair warning: one horror trope in particular that Jones doesn’t shy away from is the grisly and the gory. There are certainly scenes that are not for the faint of heart. However, if you find yourself drawn in, like me, to the allure of suffocating secrets and an unknown creature just on the other side of the door – watching and waiting – I would definitely recommend picking up The Only Good Indians. Just out last week on July 14th, definitely pop your name on the hold list in the catalog!

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