Behrg Reviews: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Stephen Graham Jones is an author I deeply respect. He's got his own style, his "voice" is strong and is a huge part of what makes his fiction unique and memorable. I found his novel Mongrels amazing, and loved the different take he used with a werewolf story. He's okay with breaking rules and shattering norms and doing it his way. If you've read one of his books, you'll know what I mean. The journey itself is as fun as any destination, and once you jump in you quickly realize you're just along for the ride.
This said, I struggled with The Only Good Indians. I'm likely in the minority on this one, as the reviews have been fantastic coming in, and there's so much I appreciate about this story and the way it's constructed, it just took me a really long time to get through. The best way I can describe this book is comparing it to a bowl of Lucky Charms. But this would have to be the last bowl in the box, the "dregs" if you will, after your younger brother or sister has gone through by hand and pulled out as many marshmallows as they could find. Every mouthful just sort of tasted the same. And then there'd be these moments of exquisite flavor when a marshmallow shocks your system, and so I'd keep shoveling more in only to be back to the plain flavorless taste. Now don't me wrong, the marshmallows in this book are amazing, and a few of the scenes are ones embedded now in my little head. For me, instead of the connected vignettes I would have preferred a single short story with that first epic twist pulling its trigger and then calling it good. Without going into spoilers, it was a fantastic moment and though there were other marshmallows sprinkled throughout, none of them lived up to that first spike of sugary / horrific goodness. One of the other things that really stands out in this book is the characterization of modern Native Americans. The prejudices, challenges, and even self-fulfilling prophecies, and the way SGJ took tradition and lore and incorporated it into a new prism was fascinating and likely something only he could do. There's an authenticity to his writing, for good or bad, as that may have had something to do with the pacing issues I felt through parts of the story. Certainly worthy of your time, this could be a quite polarizing work, and while I'm glad I read it, it felt like more work than it should have. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher and author for allowing me to read an advanced copy. The Only Good Indians comes out this summer.