The creeping horror of Paul Tremblay meets Tommy Orange’s There There in a dark novel of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, 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.
I have no idea how exactly to explain my initial reaction to this book. I’ve read countless books in English, which is not my mother tongue, I live in an English speaking country and use the language every day, but once I started The Only Good Indians I felt like I don’t understand a word, like I’m reading in Chinese. After a few pages, I even passed the book to my SO to make sure that my brain didn’t suddenly lose its ability to read or to understand a sentence. And no, it clearly wasn’t me, it was the writing. I still have no idea what exactly happened there, what the issue was. Each word had a meaning, but somehow, put together, they just didn’t have any sense. Somehow, after a few chapters, things sort of went back to normal and the phrasing was smoother. Despite that, the book still didn’t catch me and I just wanted to finish it faster and be done with it.
The storyline is definitely original and not one of the tipical horror plots, but that’s pretty much the only good thing I can say about it. I’ve seen so many excited reactions about this novel, I saw it in so many 2020 tops. It’s not even the fact that my expectations weren’t met. I wasn’t just disappointed, I simply disliked everything about it. The characters weren’t interesting, I couldn’t sympathize with any of them, their actions seemed illogical half of the time, the storyline wasn’t catchy, the plot didn’t make my pulse jump or give me the feeling that I’m reading a horror. In addition, I feel like the author tried so much to signal that this is a story about native indians that it became repetitive and annoying.
Considering that so many readers gave positive reviews and I’m in minority here, I’m just going to assume this was not a story for me, but it can definitely be for somebody else. So in case you’re feeling tempted to give it a try, don’t let my opinion discourage you from reading it.