"The Only Good Indians" by Stephen Graham Jones

Review: "The Only Good Indians" by Stephen Graham Jones

I’ll start this review by telling you straightaway that the less you know about Stephen Graham Jones’s The Only Good Indians, the better. Most, if not all of us in the horror community (and even beyond that too) know who Jones is, and know what to expect from him at this point, and I would highly recommend reading this novel on name recognition alone. (If you don’t know who he is, get to know him here.) His publisher for Good Indians, Saga Press—an imprint of Simon and Schuster—seems to agree that walking into this book blind is the best way to go. Here’s their blurb:

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.

...that’s the power of Jones’s writing, his ability to keep you reading even when parts inside scream at you to stop.

I’ll only add to this that Good Indians owes much of its plot, at least in a loose sense, to A Nightmare On Elm Street, but with splashes of graphic violence inspired by Tom Savini’s gnarliest Friday The 13th effects, all bound together with the heart and drama of Chris Eyre’s Skins, a film that, just like Jones’s novels, grapples with what it means to be a “good Indian”—as well as, in Jones’s case, a play on that stalwart bit of hate speech, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian,” a phrase that one of the characters, Denorah, briefly examines, ultimately proclaiming that if the saying is true, “she’s going to be the worst Indian ever.”

So what does it mean to be a “good Indian,” at least according to the characters in Good Indians? Is it staying on the rez, and thus staying true—ostensibly, at least—to your Native roots? Should one be loyal only to one’s tribe, and suspicious of any others, as in the mild, sometimes-only-half-serious feud between Blackfeet and Crows depicted in the book? Is it less about one’s heritage and more about being the best person you can be, regardless of tribe and location in the world, i.e., those that leave the rez for the world beyond? Is it simply enough to survive, as Denorah swears to do when she turns that old bigoted saying on its head?

As one might expect, there isn’t one definitive answer presented, though in general, it seems just trying one’s best and never crossing lines you cannot uncross is the core of Jones’s novel, a basic principle fueling everything that happens within its pages. It reminds me of a concept in Jewish teachings called kavanah. It’s defined by My Jewish Learning as such:

Kavanah is the Hebrew word for direction, intention, or purpose. In its simplest meaning, it refers to concentrating the mind in the performance of a religious act, ensuring that it doesn’t devolve into rote, mechanical action.

Kavanah differs from keva, or the “routine,” the means by which one performs a religious act. Several scholars argue that the keva isn’t as important as the kavanah, that one should attempt to practice Judaism properly, but so long as they’re doing the best they can, the intention behind their actions—the devotion to the ritual—far outweighs the technical accuracy of the ritual itself. 

We see parallels to this idea throughout Good Indians, with perhaps the most potent example being Lewis and Cassidy separately worrying about the sweat lodges they’re building and whether or not how they use them will anger any cosmic “Indian police” forces. Ultimately, it seems doubtful that pouring some water for a dog or letting a woman into the sweat lodge will incur any sort of punishment. Rather, it is the transgression these men—alongside their friends Gabe and Ricky—committed ten years prior that will rain hell upon their heads. There are some things you just don’t do, some laws you just don’t break. The consequences are worse than you could ever imagine.

The Only Good Indians shows us just how awful those consequences can be, because they don’t just impact the guilty, but the innocent as well, a reality that manifests itself in utterly gruesome displays. I personally have a fairly strong stomach, but there were several moments I wanted to throw the book aside. I didn’t, though. And that’s the power of Jones’s writing, his ability to keep you reading even when parts inside scream at you to stop. It’s ultimately worth sticking it through to the end, as Jones gives his readers an utterly poignant climax and denouement, one that bridges considerations of the “Old Ways” and the ever-changing landscape of Indigenous people’s present and future. 

Buy The Only Good Indians at Bookshop or Amazon 

To leave a comment Login with Facebook or create a free account.

Comments

Munna Kabir's picture
Munna Kabir September 2, 2020 - 12:24am

Thank you so much for this. I was into this issue and tired to   tinker around to check if its possible but couldnt get it done. N https://vidmate.onl/ ow that i have seen the way you did it, thanks guys
with
regards

 

Mileranda's picture
Mileranda November 3, 2021 - 9:17am

By the way, it seems to me that it is mainly because of his Indian origin that Jones received flattering praise from critics in his address, and not because of any high level of writing skills. In any case, in "Only the good ..." I could not find it. Which is extremely regrettable, because I was hoping to immerse myself in a cool folk horror, but in the end I ended up with a ridiculous, stretched and poorly told horror movie, similar to a novelization of a cheap category B thriller, and not at all a quality mystical novel. I think I`ll wrire another review on this book in my blog Chatroulette español. The only good news is that now I won't even get a cannon shot at the prose of Stephen Graham Jones, which means I will save money to buy books that are more worthy and adequate in terms of storytelling.

MorganGwen's picture
MorganGwen November 10, 2022 - 3:14pm

There are friends that really want you to be like them thank you my friend for telling me about Dr Ayoola. I was introduced to Dr Ayoola by my friend. me and my friend have been playing lottery games for some years now. and we are always running out of luck. One day my friend play and win. And I was surprise how my friend won the sun of 10 million euro I was asking him questions and he open up to me and told me it was by the help of Dr Ayoola so I ask him to help me. My friend gave me the contact of this great man call Dr Ayoola I contacted him and told him why I contacted him and also tell  him I got  his information form my friend. To cut the long story short Dr Ayoola help me with a winning number just as he did for my friend and I was able to won 13 million euro all thanks to you Dr Ayoola for your kind heart and for willing to help me and my friend I will for ever grateful to you sir because you have done what on one can do for me. You can contact him today and be the next to testify. this man is good when it come to giving winning numbers I will drop his details just Incase you need him to help you thank you sir you can contact him via  drayoolasolutionhome@gmail.com or https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Ayoola-105640401516053/ text or call +14809032128

Morning Gossip's picture
Morning Gossip November 16, 2022 - 6:43am

MORNING'S GOSSIP:

Post From Ali Syed, From the UK Cryptocurrency Recovery, Lost BTC Recovery

Hello, my name is Ali Syed. I got scammed

Immediately, I contacted ULTIMATE HACKER JERRY & I trusted him because his reviews were from our local guild WILDER NEWTON. & within 4 hours of contacting him, I got all my funds back with an ROI. It was unbelievable. I must state, I had to send out my review also. He's indeed recommendable.

Contact:.

(Ultimatehackerjerry@seznam. cz)

WhatsAp (+15,51,20,2-2,3-3,5)

Ma Sha Allah

Thomas Gibson's picture
Thomas Gibson November 24, 2022 - 1:09pm

I want to use this opportunity to tell the whole world on how I become rich and famous. I’m 93 years old. I was passing through difficulty in business and there was no hope of me coming out of my debt.  I borrow  money in my bank to do my business and I run at lost on the business I got frustrated and  decided to be playing lottery to see if I can win and make my business grow and I have played for years now nothing good is coming my way on till I meet someone online talking about Dr Ayoola on the internet. He was taking about how this Dr Ayoola help him to win mega million lottery game. I said to myself if this is true and decide to contact him and told him to help me as well I later read more about this man and see how he has been helping people all over the world. I have faith in him and choose to work with him. After working with him he told me what I need to do for the number to be given to me which I did after he finish working he said I will have a dream and the number will be review to me in the dream. That night has I was sleeping I dream a number immediately he call me and gave me the same number I dream of and ask me to go and play the number. Today I’m here testifying of the good work he did for me I played the number and I won the sum of  1, 000,000 million dollars in a lotto max. You can contact Dr Ayoola for help if you want to win big in lottery game he has the gift of giving right number  contact him today and thank me email him today Via email: drayoolasolutionhome@gmail. com or https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Ayoola-105640401516053/ text or call +14809032128