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The Only Good Indians

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Horror (2020)
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.

305 pages, Hardcover

First published July 14, 2020

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About the author

Stephen Graham Jones

211 books7,865 followers
Stephen Graham Jones is the NYT bestselling author of twenty-five or thirty books. He really likes werewolves and slashers. Favorite novels change daily, but Valis and Love Medicine and Lonesome Dove and It and The Things They Carried are all usually up there somewhere. Stephen lives in Boulder, Colorado. It's a big change from the West Texas he grew up in. He's married with a couple kids, and probably one too many trucks.

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5 stars
15,328 (23%)
4 stars
24,792 (38%)
3 stars
16,678 (25%)
2 stars
5,641 (8%)
1 star
1,877 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 11,508 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,203 reviews40.8k followers
July 10, 2022
Another book hit me on the face and gave me complex feelings: I liked it but I also disliked it as well. I hate to be decisive and stay in the middle. I also hate grey. I liked to choose between black and white. So let’s rephrase how this book confused the hell of me!

Firstly this is fresh, inventive, unique, different story and seeing Native American representation always picks my interest because I love to learn more about different traditions, cultures and original, remarkable perspectives. We have so many vivid ingredients in the sea of literature and we need to discover them more by reading those talented, brilliant authors works and help them raise their voices, share their opinions.

So this book made me so excited, especially reading the blurb tells us this is crossover of Paul Tremblay books and There There. And after reading bizarre opening with the incident at the elk hunt, I was captivated and I thought that was it, I was reading something heart pounding, mind bending!

But after that, I slowly drifted apart from the story. I found the pace a little slow and the way of story -telling distracted my concentration. But there are also too many elements still held my attention. The plot about cursed four friends who committed crime at the beginning of the book are threatened by some supernatural identity gave me so much creeps! As a die-hard fan of action packed revenge stories, I kept going and at some parts I jumped off my seat, screamed and checked my back to make sure nobody was sneakily approaching behind me (This kind of stories turned you into a paranoid!) and the ending is also satisfyingly impactful touch!

But I have to admit, it was struggling and compelling reading and I had some trouble with the language and progression of the story. It reminded me of Nic Pizzolatto’s dark, slow-burn, eerie, heart shattering writing style more than Jordan Peele’s horror movies.

So I gave 3.25 stars! But I liked the idea and I appreciated author’s efforts to bring out something fresh, controversial, spooky to the literature jungle by getting the readers’ full attention. I love to read his other works in near future.
I wish I would enjoy this book more than this and because trying something brand new always force you to be brave and take more risks. And I always support those authors who are really brave enough to bring different tastes, stunning shocking, twisty stories. I wish I could focus more but it was dragging and struggling reading journey for me.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Gallery/Saga Press for this ARC COPY in exchange my honest review. Thanks to Stephen Graham Jones for his original work to help the readers experience a brand new journey!

Profile Image for Kat.
265 reviews79.6k followers
July 12, 2022
I actually think this book is the first 2020 horror release that met my expectations and I am THRILLED about it!
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,296 reviews120k followers
October 30, 2022
Comanche Chief Tosawi reputedly told [Union General Philip] Sheridan in 1869, "Tosawi, good Indian," to which Sheridan supposedly replied, "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead." - Wikipedia
You hide in the herd. You wait. And you never forget.
Payback’s a bitch, with antlers.

Lewis, a Blackfeet, has lived off the rez for a long time. In his 30s, he’s a postal worker, with a beautiful, athletic wife, Peta, friends, a home, a life. An intermittent spotlight seems to be popping on in the house and shining on their mantel. He climbs a tall ladder to check it out and sees on his living room floor the carcass of an elk doe he had killed ten years ago. He still has her hide. Losing his balance, Lewis is plunging straight toward a likely death by skull intersecting brick, when Peta saves the day, tackling him out of harm’s way at the last second. It was not the first close encounter suffered by the crew of childhood friends who had gone out hunting elk where they had no right. His late friend Ricky had already received a very harsh and pointed reception from a large dark elk in the parking lot of a bar.

Stephen Graham jones - Image from Fiction Unbound

There were two other guys on that hunt, one in which they killed more elk than they could ever use, Gabriel Cross Guns and Cassidy. After following Lewis for a while, we track these men. Something else is tracking them, too. There was a particular element of that epic kill that created a monster, and vengeance is sought. I Know What You Did Last Decade.

The POV shifts from third person when we are with Lewis, to that of the avenging elk when she is going after Gabe and Cass, then shifts back to third person for the big finale.

This is a slasher book with a Native American touch. You’ll get enough gore to matter, but it is not the sort of viscera-fest favored by films with the words “saw” in their titles. But it does sustain the ethos, to the extent that there is one, of such entertainments, namely that the dark force coming after you is doing so in response to something you did. Yes, a vengeful she-elk monster is tracking down these Blackfeet guys for something they did, and her pursuit is relentless, in the same way that Jason, or Michael Myers, Jigsaw, Freddy Krueger, or Leatherface pursued the targets of their ire. Antlers and hooves can definitely do mortal damage, just as well as metal-based weaponry. She is as impervious to death as the above-named sorts, so just keeps on keepin’ on, regardless. It makes for some very scary scenes, particularly in an epic pursuit near the end. Definitely something to rev up the blood pressure.

But there are other elements at work here as well. It is not merely a frightfest. Jones is giving us a look at Native life. Not a rosy, people-of-the-land idyllic vision. This is a world in which old trucks sit on cinder blocks in family yards, a world in which sweat lodges are small, three-person, makeshift tents, a world of orders of protection, and degraded expectations.

There is guilt about having moved away from reservation life. Lewis has even married a Caucasian woman.
The headline kicks up in Lewis’s head on automatic, straight out of the reservation: not the FULLBLOOD TO DILUTE BLOODLINE he’d always expected if he married white, that he’d been prepping to deal with, because who knows, but FULLBLOOD BETRAYS EVERY DEAD INDIAN BEFORE HIM. It’s the guilt of having some pristine Native swimmers…cocked and loaded but never pushing them downstream, meaning the few of his ancestors who made it through raids and plagues, massacres and genocide, diabetes and all the wobbly-tired cars the rest of America was done with, they may as well have just stood up into that big Gatling gun of history, yeah?
As seen in the above quote, Lewis maintains a running wry commentary on his own actions with imagined self-deprecating newspaper headlines. INDIAN MAN HAS NO ROOTS, THINKS HE’S STILL INDIAN IF HE TALKS LIKE AN INDIAN. Not exactly ha-ha funny, but there is a vein of humor throughout.

There is also recognition of Native American stereotypes,
Really, Lewis imagines, he deserves some big Indian award for having made it to thirty-six without pulling into the drive-through for a burger and fries, easing away from diabetes and high blood pressure and leukemia. And he gets the rest of the trophies for having avoided all the car crashes and jail time and alcoholism on his cultural dance card. Or maybe the reward for lucking through all that—meth too, he guesses—is having been married ten years now to Peta, who doesn’t have to put up with motorcycle parts in the sink…
Jones applies genre tropes, like , or a young female taking on the beast. Where it breaks from the Jason/Mikey Myers physical form is in giving the monster the ability to shapeshift. The monster’s targets are not bad people. They are decent people who did a bad thing. And it is something that Lewis has suffered years of guilt over. It would have been an easy out to have written them all as dark-hearted souls. I particularly enjoyed a gem of a sporting contest, the biggest game of the year, . It is riveting!

I had one particular issue with the book. Why the time differential? Ricky is killed a year after Lewis leaves the rez, but the rest of the onslaught takes place much later. There is an explanation in the book, but I found it unpersuasive. Other than that, I’m good. Minor aside: the book was originally titled Where the Old Ones Go. I can understand why it was skipped. Sounds like the latrine at the senior center. Next up was Elk-Head Woman, which is certainly descriptive, but might have been a bit too open to snarky intentional misinterpretations. FWIW, I am not sure the title they finally settled on is the best of all possible titles either, as the story is more about the misery that these Indians have brought on themselves than the misery inflicted on them by Eastern invaders. Not that I have anything better to offer.

So, overall, this is a pretty good, substantive horror read, offering some spine tingles along with a portrait of a segment of Native American life. And some serious twists and gut-punches, as fear descends into madness, enough to generate out loud exclamations of “Oh, shoot!,” or something very like that. But no lost winks for me from this one, which is par for the course. But that is a very high bar, as it is exceedingly rare for horror books to keep me up. It’s the political ones that do that best. But for most humans this should be plenty scary.
Death is too easy. Better to make every moment of the rest of a person’s life agony.

Review posted – April 10, 2020

Publication date – April 7, 2020 (what is on the spine of my ARE) or maybe May 19, 2020 (What shows up on the GR page for the book), or, who knows? Maybe July 14, 2020 (on Edelweiss and in Simon & Schuster’s digital catalog) - Looks like the last one is for real. Many books got pushed in this year of the plague.
----------Trade Paperback -January 26, 2021

I received this book from the publisher in return for a reasonable review, but I wonder, if they disapprove of what I have written, whether some years hence I might be pursued to a dark end by a vengeance-crazed editor, armed with a sheath of sharpened colored pens.

And thanks to MC

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

Interviews – The first two deal mostly with Mongrels, but are still interesting
-----from Westword - With Mongrels, This Is Stephen Graham Jones's Time to Howl - by Jason Heller
-----Ghoulish - December 15, 2019 - Slashers with Stephen Graham Jones! - Max Booth – audio – 28:20
-----Fiction Unbound – March 7, 2020 - Dead Dogs and Final Girls: An Interview with Stephen Graham Jones - by C.S. Peterson
-----Los Angeles Review of Books – July 13, 2019 - Writing in the Shadow of “V”: Adventures in Speculative Fiction with Stephen Graham Jones by Billy J. Stratton
-----More2Read - Interview: Stephen Graham Jones on Writing, The Only Good Indians, and inspirations by Lou Pendergrast

My reviews of other Stephen Graham Jones books
-----2016 - Mongrels
-----2021 - My Heart is a Chainsaw

-----The Charlie Daniels Band - The Devil Went Down to Georgia
-----D.A.D - Trucker - from the Special album – SGJ listened to this a lot when he began writing this novel
----- D.A.D - Jonnie- ditto

Items of Interest
-----Electric Lit - November 27, 2019 - Being Indian Is Not a Superpower
-----Philip Sheridan
-----James Dickey - A Birth - one of the works that inspired SGJ
-----Stephen Graham Jones - Crimereads - July 15, 2020 - Why Exposing Kids to Horror Might Actually Be Good for Them
Particularly in the world today, we need to learn the lesson that, while there is certainly evil in the world, it is possible to overcome it. I have always had a fondness for horror. When I was seven years old, my mother took me to see The Crawling Eye, a cheesy sci-fi/horror flick that I loved. The Tingler came out when I was still seven, and I saw and loved that one too, maybe with my older brother. A few years later Mr Sardonicus. I can recall no trauma, although clearly I had mom’s DNA and enjoyment of horror films to support my interest. Jones makes a strong point about why it is important to stay the course while exposing your kids to these things. Well worth the reading.
-----NY Times - 8/14/20 - ‘We’ve Already Survived an Apocalypse’: Indigenous Writers Are Changing Sci-Fi by Alexandra Alter
-----You might want to check out Jeffrey Keeten's excellent review
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,538 reviews9,829 followers
May 18, 2023
The Only Good Indians is a brutal, haunting and visceral piece of Horror fiction. Luckily, that's exactly how I like it.

On the last day of hunting season, Lewis, Ricky, Gabe and Cass, young Blackfeet men, do something they will ultimately regret.

They knew it was wrong, they felt it at the time, but spurred on by each other and the adrenaline of the hunt, they went against their better judgement.

Close to the 10-year anniversary of that event, which came to be known amongst the friends as the Thanksgiving Classic, Lewis, now living far from the Reservation, begins to be haunted by images of that day.

When a new colleague, a Crow woman, reaches out to him and a friendship begins, Lewis confides in her, thinking perhaps due to her heritage, she'll understand what he's going through.

From there, shit hits the proverbial haunted ceiling fan pretty quickly.

This is my first novel by Stephen Graham Jones and to say I was impressed would be putting it mildly.

His writing has such texture and grit. Often I feel like you can wait for a novel to take it all the way and it never does. This one goes the distance.

It is bloody, brutal, fast-paced, genuine and horrifying. The nature of the storytelling feels so traditional, whilst also being cutting edge.

The only issue I had while reading it, which is completely a personal taste issue and nothing to do with the quality of the writing or story, was a lot of the animal content was hard for me to make it through.

Particularly the related scenes. I acknowledge this is 100% a personal taste issue, I still rate books based upon my reading experience.

With this being said, I will mention that I do not think in anyway that the author added those scenes recklessly. They definitely served a purpose in the narrative.

Overall, I think this is a purposeful, creative and engaging Horror story. I will absolutely be picking up anything else SGJ writes.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Gallery / Saga Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

It will haunt me for a long time to come!
Profile Image for Dani.
51 reviews470 followers
September 16, 2020
I’d like to start by stating that I’m not from the Blackfeet tribe so this is not a true own voices review. However, as the effects of settler colonialism permeate the lives of tribes all across Turtle Island, as an Ojibwe woman I’ll relate to this story more than a non-Indigenous reader.

In The Only Good Indians by Blackfeet author Stephen Graham Jones we see the effects of intergenerational trauma, substance abuse & racism while also seeing the resilience of familial/friendship bonds, community ties and traditional ceremonies.

I’m a huge horror movie fan and Jones has written a novel that managed to give me a horror movie experience. I was often engrossed, sometimes repulsed and steadily anxious with anticipation. Numerous times I thought I knew where the plot was going and then would be hit with a huge, “oh, never mind!”

The depictions of rez life really made this a welcoming read amidst all of the horror. I saw my cousins in these men: imperfect, loyal & in a society that won’t let them be and has separated them from their tribal ways (which we we come to find out leads to huge repercussions.) If you’re neech & have been to a lot of sweats like I have, you’re going to want to yell at certain characters.

PS: everyone is entitled to their own opinion but I was confused at the amount of yt reviewers who said they couldn’t connect to certain elements & it felt like they weren’t the target audience so they DNF’d this & I mean....

I kept wondering what they want from Indigenous authors. This book doesn’t isolate yt readers by any means. I wouldn’t hesitate recommending this to a non-Indigenous person.

I think that a lot of yt reviewers have preconceptions of what Indigenous authored books & their reading experience should be. I couldn’t help but think of a certain scene in TOGI, when Denorah is told to draw an NDN ledger scene in class that depicts a fave holiday, so she drew a basketball trip, a sport that many rez kids have clung to as a beacon of hope, and the teacher is disappointed and remarks while grading, “Is this really Indian, D? Shouldn’t you do something to honor your heritage?”
This sentence reminds me of reviews I’ve seen and it’s startling.
Profile Image for Paul.
Author 112 books8,434 followers
November 11, 2019
THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS is a masterpiece. Intimate, devastating, brutal, terrifying, yet warm and heartbreaking in the best way, Stephen Graham Jones has written a horror novel about injustice and, ultimately, about hope. Not a false, sentimental hope, but the real one, the one that some of us survive and keeps the rest of us going. And it gives me hope that this book exists.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.6k followers
August 26, 2020
normally, a 300 page book would only take a few hours for me to read. this took me nearly two weeks to finish. i just could not get into the story. i wanted to DNF is several times, but the glowing reviews/ratings made me push through it.

i cant pinpoint anything specific that made me struggle with this. the premise is interesting, the commentary on native american culture is eye-opening, and the characters are likeable. perhaps its the writing style? i just couldnt go more than 5 sentences without my eyes starting to glaze over. my attention was never fully grabbed and it felt like i had to constantly work at trying to understand what was going on.

so, this just wasnt for me personally. but based on how many positive reviews this has received, i still feel like i could recommend this to horror fans.

2 stars
Profile Image for Debra .
2,295 reviews35k followers
December 15, 2019
Four young American Indian men find themselves fighting for their lives against an entity who wants revenge after an event that occurred during an elk hunt ten years earlier.

Many are really enjoying this book and I encourage my fellow readers to read those reviews. This book just wasn't for me. I struggled with the writing style, I found it slow in parts, and overall just not my cup of tea. I love a good horror book, but this one just didn't work for me- end of story. I thought the book started on a high note, and really grabbed me but then it lost me, and I never found my footing with this again.

We all can’t love the same book, and this is the case here. I am in the minority on this one, so give it a try and decide for yourself.

Thank you to Gallery, Pocket Books and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Frank Phillips.
504 reviews249 followers
July 28, 2020
DNF at 140 pages in. This is just not good. The writing feels more like rambling and its incredibly hard to follow without having to reread and decipher, which is too much work for a horror novel. I don't understand how this is so hyped-up by so many respectable authors, it makes no sense to me. Essentially this is about an elk that was killed at a hunt and comes back 10 years later to get revenge on her hunters, from what i could tell at where i stopped. Maybe i'm just not smart enough for this one, but I have a feeling this will be a very polarizing book and you will either love it or loath it, like i did. Since I forked over almost $30 and purchased this one, maybe i'll go back and force myself to read it later down the road, but too many good books lay on my bookshelf for me to waste any more time on this one.
Profile Image for Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
Author 144 books16.7k followers
April 20, 2020
There are not many Indigenous writers (or Native American, as they say in the United States) penning speculative fiction, though Moon of the Crusted Snow and other recent titles are changing the panorama. Stephen Graham Jones has been at this for a while and as usual it is great to see an author that writes about his culture without apologies or peddling to the white gaze. Jones craft a story that is very much horror, is very much Indigenous, and full of raw, powerful prose.
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 24 books4,128 followers
June 1, 2020
Review originally published May 5th at Cemetery Dance

I read an interview with Stephen Graham Jones where he said, “I just figure I am Blackfeet, so every story I tell’s going to be Blackfeet.” (Uncanny Magazine/Julia Rios)

This one, simple statement is manifested in SGJ’s body of work; each book wildly different from the last, but distinctly identifiable as his own because they bear his fingerprints, unique storytelling voice and personal context.

Over the last few years, I have been a fan of his short fiction (“Dirtmouth”), novellas (Mapping the Interior), novels (Mongrels), and experimental fiction (The Last Final Girl). I will gladly show up for anything he has to offer.

The Only Good Indians begins with a swiftly-paced narrative, aptly balancing social commentary and real-time drama. Readers are drawn into the life of a Blackfeet Native American named Lewis. It takes only a few sentences to fall in love with him. He has an infectious personality when he’s interacting with those around him, but it’s Lewis’ inner thought life that reveals his sense of humor and vibrancy I found so endearing.

The narrative is two-fold: Lewis’ present day circumstances peppered with flashbacks to an elk hunting trip with his friends. It becomes increasingly clear that whatever transpired during this hunting trip almost a decade ago has haunted Lewis all of his days. Something bad happened there.

As Lewis goes through his day-to-day life, unsettling suspense begins to build surrounding Lewis’ past; it’s almost unbearable as Stephen Graham Jones expertly winds the tension tighter and tighter and tighter until there is an unexpected break. We finally learn Lewis’ secrets and once the reader sees the truth—you can’t unsee it. It colors everything from that moment forward.

This is the magic of SGJ’s storytelling—everything comes at you from all sides. A barrage of human experiences told through people who feel real to you, their feelings uncomfortably tangible. Stephen Graham Jones expertly switches POVs, head-hops, transitions the entire story into a new one halfway through, kills his darlings with unflinching decisiveness, and basically is able to get away with everything authors are told to never do. SGJ makes his own way, by his rules. And thank goodness for that.

This is a story that is shared so intimately, it’s hard to separate and let go of the connection that is formed when it’s over. I almost feel possessive of it—this book is mine! Nobody will engage with it the way I did!

I wonder if other readers will experience that same feeling of ownership over this story? There is something so devastatingly heartbreaking as a reader to feel a kinship to a protagonist and his story but at the same time, know that the stakes are too high—the hunter has become the prey. I wanted to jump through the pages and protect Lewis from what I was sure was coming for him.

I loved the time I invested in this story. There were some major payoffs—the ending is spectacular. This will likely be the book that catapults SGJ’s name on the lips of all readers, not just die-hard horror junkies who already know and love his work. He’ll be everyone’s new favorite and it is well deserved. This is the new benchmark for slasher/revenge stories—SGJ just flipped the script and staked a new claim. A gold standard for the genre.

Writing up my review for Cemetery Dance but mark my words: It's this book by SGJ that is going to be made into a movie (I'm already calling it) This is the kind of horror people want right now. The characters are memorable, interesting, flawed, funny--REAL.
This horror has something to say.
A modern revenge story with biting social commentary that eats away at your soul. My heart and my mind ached after I finished."
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
November 19, 2020
oooh, goodreads choice awards finalist for best horror 2020! what will happen?


fulfilling book riot's 2020 read harder challenge task #24: Read a book in any genre by a Native, First Nations, or Indigenous author

but more importantly, WELCOME TO SPOOKTOOOOBER!!


this book opens big and strong and violent, but then it sort of shifts, taking a moment to readjust its focus, and in that time i started to have doubts about whether it was going to return to the early promise of those opening pages, but then WHOOOOOO BOY.

if this happens to you—this slackening of reader engagement because you're confused about or not really into where the story’s going, don't worry—it's a temporary dip and once it settles into its groove, it's rich and dark and relentless, kinda like It Follows but with elk.

the story will shift, and shift again, because of REASONS that are for me to know and for you to find out, but it was only that first shift that dislodged me; once i was invested, i stayed invested and every subsequent turn or diversion was earned and appreciated.

i’d heard so many good things about this book, but i was still unprepared for how much i would love it. it is astonishing; the atmosphere, the imagery, how real the characters feel. it’s a horror novel, but it’s so much more than its horror. it’s splattery, but it’s also smart.

there's a very thomas hardy-esque sensibility driving the narrative arc; the longtailed memory of promises made and not kept, the necessity of paying for long-ago sins—in this case a youthful indiscretion committed by four friends growing up on a blackfeet reservation; an act which violated both tribal law and custom, resulting in the kind of waste that nature abhors and will ultimately demand parity.

the repercussions of that event are a long time coming, but when they do, revenge is inevitable and merciless; the brutality of nature given supernatural determination. the experience of being haunted by one’s past is both literal and figurative here, manifesting in the physical and psychological dimensions; characters are haunted by guilt while being stalked by a past that remembers.

the bulk of the story follows lewis, who has long since moved away from the reservation and married a white woman. lewis feels the burden of his past strongly; troubled by guilt and regret as well as the existential dilemma of what it means to be blackfeet in the wider world; the clash between tradition and modernity, the expectations put on him by his own and other people.

it’s a tricky straddling of two worlds, and fate will rush into that space, filling the chasm between doubt and belief, fact and superstition. lewis catches eerie glimpses bridging the past and the present; prickly suspicions giving rise to a simmering paranoia before escalating sharply into deliciously horrific episodes.

but, hey, it’s also funny.

the humor is often self-deprecating or ironic, playing on stereotypes and cliches, but there are also plenty of sly reference points and genre subversions, and when gabe muses, “One little, two little, three little Natives . . . doesn’t really sound right, does it?”, you know he's invoking agatha christie's second, slightly less offensive, title of the book now known as And Then There Were None, with cheeky intent. and when he superimposes a ceiling fan with an animal in a living room, you can almost hear grace zabriskie screaming.

it's brilliant work about identity and heritage and loss, setting up several mirrored oppositions and power dynamic reversals across nature and history, predator and prey, white man and indian, and all of the collective memory passages are sublime.

i tried to avoid learning too much about the specific plot points of this book before reading it, and i think that was a good move, so i'll say no more. but, damn. DAMN.

gutting perfection.


i went into this half-blind but full-hearted—i fell hard for that cover at first sight, and i was anticipating its release for what seemed like ages. when it got covid-delayed, i was INCONSOLABLE, but then ended up sitting on it for a couple more months anyway, knowing it would be the perfect book to ring in spooktober. it did not disappoint.

review to come!

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Boston.
405 reviews1,851 followers
December 9, 2022
I’m not saying this is the best horror I’ve ever read, but this is the best horror I’ve ever read
Profile Image for Rebecca Roanhorse.
Author 60 books7,638 followers
November 25, 2019
Jones has written a chilling and original story of revenge set in contemporary Indian Country that had me staying up late turning pages as fast as I could. The book is bloody and brutal at times, but also intimate, heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful. Jones boldly and bravely incorporates both the difficult and the beautiful parts of contemporary Indian life into his story, never once falling into stereotypes or easy answers but also not shying away from the horrors caused by cycles of violence. I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Char.
1,638 reviews1,487 followers
March 1, 2020
THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS is a superb, gut wrenching novel, and it wrecked me.

I've been sitting here struggling to come up with some words that don't sound like the same old thing. This book is not the same old thing.

I've been sitting here struggling to find a way to relate to you the mind-warping effects of this novel, because it is mind warping.

I wish I had a way to explain how the guilt here was wrapped up and entwined with grief and shame and then buried under the burdens of Native American life.

I wish I could tell you that the tragic truths told in this book were not true, but I'd be lying if I did.

With beautifully written prose that demands your full attention, the ugliest of stories unfolds here. I loved every black and brutal, dark and gray minute of it. I don't what else to say.

My highest recommendation.

Available May 19th, 2020, but you can pre-order here: https://amzn.to/32HkuDS

*Thank you to Saga Press and NetGalley for the e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
October 24, 2020
”It’s a good day to die.
I will fight no more forever.
The only good Indian is a dead Indian.
Kill the Indian, save the man.
Bury the hatchet.
Off the reservation.
Indian go home.
No Indians or dogs allowed.”

Ricky is dead. Stomped to death in a bar parking lot in North Dakota. ”INDIAN MAN KILLED IN DISPUTE OUTSIDE BAR.” One of those headlines in a newspaper buried beneath the fold or maybe on page 7B or 14C because there is nothing shocking about it or particularly compelling to readers. Ahh, another one, someone might say. Ricky was somewhere he shouldn’t have been, but then there are few places off the Rez that are ever safe for a man with a tint to his skin. ”The air in there was gritty and yellow, almost crunched between Ricky’s teeth when he’d accidentally opened his mouth.”The air might be toxic, but so were the glares.

But in the end, it isn’t the stomping boots of white men but the hooves that kill him.

Interesting that.

Ricky’s friend Lewis is living off the reservation with a ”Custer Haired Woman.” Is she with him because he is exotic? Even better, an exotic with a job? He likes to bury himself in fantasy books with worlds populated with elves, mermaids, werewolves, and men and women with swinging swords. Those things he sees in the periphery of his vision, are they just a manifestation of his own fertile imagination? He is beset by dreams, terrible dreams, dreams of retribution, and he is the guilty one. His faithful dog is found stomped to death. He duct tapes an elk shape into his living room carpet.

His white woman starts to have doubts about his sanity. She’d be insane not to. What at first was vague shapes has become full fledged apparitions. Is this about ignoring his cultural identity? Or is this about that haunting moment in time from his youth that never felt right? That night when Ricky, Gabe Cross Guns, Cassiday, and he disrespected their culture and acted like crazed white men?

Yeah, that feels right. This feels like revenge, spirit revenge. Something has crawled out of the old ways, and there is a reckoning to be had.

Gabe and Cassiday are the ones who stayed on the rez. Gabe has a daughter named Denorah, who was supposed to be named Deborah, but the drunken scrawl of her father on the birth certificate gave her a unique name and, frankly, she is a girl who deserves an unusual name. She is a basketball sensation. Gabe has fucked up pretty much everything in his life and marvels at the fact that a few minutes of passion produced something so wonderful.

These men only remember bits and pieces of what their grandfathers tried to pass down to them. When Gabe chants, he doesn’t know the words; he only knows how it is supposed to sound. They have broken from tradition, and what little they understand of their collective past is such a parody of the real thing that any vision they conjure will be nearly impossible to interpret. What they see in their visions isn’t a guide to wisdom, but a spawner of fear. Their elders are dead, and if they don’t figure out what is going on, they will soon follow them. This vengeful spirit will not stop with them, not while there is a calf alive, even if she is a whirling, swirling basketball phenom.


Hmm... tragic... someone might think as their eyes skim over the headline while they are raising their fresh roasted coffee to their lips. They might shake their head... those Indians they just won’t assimilate.

This is the first Stephen Graham Jones I’ve read, and I must say, I was impressed. The sense of dread the characters feel combined with the almost resigned acceptance of their fates adds elements of horror to this story that left this reader with uneasy dreams. There is nothing easier than knocking off a bunch of half-assed Indians who are caught between two cultures. They don’t have the tools to succeed in either one. They are nearly tribeless with none of the collected wisdom of their ancestry to save them. Nor are they shrouded in the disbelief of the white culture. They are men exposing their necks to death. Do they still have time to run from what they will never understand?

Make no mistake, this might be labelled horror, but it should also be considered for its literary merit as well. I was really taken in with the authenticity. The current and old Native American slang is such a treat...Custer Haired Woman...Two Leggeds. I really enjoyed the mysticism, the manifestations, the old ways encroaching on the present. What is real? What is a vision? What is a lie?

Jones has something to say about police officers. The careful way that Native Americans have to be around cops has such a relevance with recent events, but frankly this issue existed for them long before blacks were ever brought to these shores. 19th century soldiers/21st century cops...same mentality. ”Dealing with cops is like being around a skittish horse: No sudden movements, nothing shiny or loud. Zero jokes.” They know, especially as people of color, that cops are just looking for a reason to hurt them. Don’t give them a reason. Keep your eyes down. Move slowly. Answer succinctly and quickly. Let out the trapped stale air in your lungs when they leave.

I’m definitely going to be reading more Stephen Graham Jones. If any of my friends and followers have recommendations, do please share them.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten and an Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/jeffreykeeten/
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,574 reviews5,911 followers
September 2, 2020
Look at other reviews. They mostly all loved this book.

I'm the dumbass that requested and wanted to beg for it thinking I would love it. Then I started reading it and realized I hated the dang thing.

Like that's a shock.

And confession time. I didn't even finish it because I'll pull every hair of my head out if I do.

Don't troll my ass because I'll ignore you.

Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review.
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
1,909 reviews4,818 followers
August 14, 2020
What an incredibly crazy ride! I finished this book a couple of days ago and it really took me that long to compile my thoughts.

This was my first experience reading Stephen Graham Jones and I don't really believe that it is an experience that I will ever forget. Please note that this book has trigger warnings for: gore, blood, death, violence against animals, death of animals, and more. Also, note that I am not an #ownvoices reviewer so I'm definitely sure there are themes and important aspects of this book that I missed. If you're looking for better insight from an #ownvoices reviewer I would recommend checking this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wQ8U...

The Only Good Indians was a shell shocker of a book for me. It was unlike anything that I've ever read and that definitely is a good thing. This book is set against the back drop of 4 Native men who are being haunted by an entity after an event that takes place 10 years prior to the start of the novel. I must admit that in the beginning I was lost; HOWEVER, Jones does an excellent job weaving the story together while introducing contemporary issues that affect the Native community. I am 100 percent positive that while I was able to acknowledge and recognize some the issues he discussed (i.e. police treatment of the Native community, media treatment of the Native community, alcoholism, interracial dating, the balancing of tradition vs. new), I know that there were themes that I missed. One thing that I did find interesting that I later found in an interview that he gave was this discussion around community and how the incident that these four men participated in was a violation of community. I think there is a good discussion in this book about balance and respect and adhering to the past while also attempting to navigate and create your own future. I also appreciated the inclusion of basketball in this book. While I know that basketball plays a big role in Black communities, I was not truly aware of the scope of significance it had in Native communities. After seeing it appear so many times in the book I did some research and began to understand its significance to the community not only in real life, but also its importance to this book ESPECIALLY at the end (which I truly truly appreciated his take on the theme of the "last woman standing at the end of a horror book/movie"). It simply reminded me that sports in general definitely play a huge role in the marginalized communities. It took nothing short of brilliance for Jones to be able to weave such dynamic and complex topics into what I would even consider a slasher book. It was phenomenal to read a book that had me as the reader questioning my own sense of reality and fiction.

One of my major criticisms of the book was the pacing. I felt as though we were in sections where we hit the ground running and then there were sections that were incredibly slow. I think that sometimes when I'm met with a writing style like that I struggle a bit with wanting to continue the book. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would finish it; however, I think there were some parts of the book where I felt a little dredged down within the text and it forced me to continously re-read sections. I believe I started this book two or three times before I was ever able to make significant progress. While we're on the discussion of writing I would also like to point out that I know that some readers may struggle with the changing of the tenses within the book. It often feels abrupt and sometimes happens without warning, but when I say that I loved his use of the second person narrative I truly mean it. It really made me connect with a certain character and truly gave me a different perspective of the story.

Overall, I think that this is a hell of book. There is so much meaning and importance especially since Jones is specifically writing from his experiences as being Blackfeet. I know that I'm now interesting in picking up more of his works. I still can't believe some of the gory scenes that I read, but I think it definitely is pushing me to explore and learn more.

Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,894 reviews1,927 followers
August 12, 2021
The 2021 Dragon Awards finalists are out! An annual fan-awarded contest, voting is open to all who register, and does NOT require a membership or any other monetary investment.
THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS is up for Best Horror novel & deserves the win.
Details of how you can vote & when they're awarded: https://www.tor.com/2021/08/12/dragon...


FINALIST, BRITISH FANTASY AWARD: BEST HORROR NOVEL, 2021! Winners announced at the Birmingham FantasyCon, 26 September 2021.


WINNER OF THE 2020 LA TIMES/RAY BRADBURY BOOK PRIZE FOR SF/F/H! Watch him explain how the book came to be on YouTube


Y'ALL. AIN'T. FOUND. HIM. YET. I mean, in your millions who buy Clive Barker and Stephen King. That's the audience that Stephen Graham Jones merits. Major film franchises. TV development deals. The whole shootin' match.

Because this is top-quality writing, using the bones of the genre fleshed out in new and interesting ways. Psychological splatterpunk. Rez Noir. Gore with more.

And now the literary crowd is making "get-up-and-leave" noises. No, no! Sit down. This book isn't another exploitation of "Noble Savages Get Revenge Via Folklore" (seriously, go to Goodreads and search "the wendigo" to see what I mean about exploitation...monsterporn galore and white people writing from their deep personal knowledge of Native American life as far back as 1910). It is #OwnVoices do horror. The point of #OwnVoices is moot if it is construed by the very white people who celebrate it so vocally if it can't be applied to *sniff* mere genre fiction. (And for the record I'm all down with white people reading more Otherwork. I just find the labeling a bit depressing and not a little bit condescending. Do y'all really need roadmaps to find an interest in people who are-but-aren't like you?)

You are defined by the worst thing you've ever done. We all are. But what if the worst thing you've ever done offended not only the social norms and personal dignity of the community you live in, but the very powers of the Universe your community resides among? (There are different powers in every community...?) What the hell is wrong with you, first...you can't not know what you're doing is offensive when you are sneaking around...and second, when you're going against the Universal powers that little sick feeling in your gut should tell you to break the hell off, abort, and go back to where you were before. I speak from experience. As does our point-of-view character, Lewis. One of four buddies who need to get their freezers full before winter hunger attackes their families, these goofuses trespass on the Elders's land to bag an elk. They do that, alright, so strike one. It's a female, strike two. She's pregnant, strike three. The game police, the tribal councils, AND the Universal powers are all lined up to take turns beating up these criminals.

The rest of the review is on my blog.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,090 reviews2,952 followers
August 7, 2021
4.0 Stars
This book is one that definitely required a reread in order for me to appreciate it's brilliance.

I have such a complicated history with this horror novel. I finally finished it after starting and putting it down THREE previous times. I love indigenous fiction, but I struggled a lot with the writing style and dialect. For this readthrough, I listened to the audiobook, which definitely helped to get me into the flow of the narrative. I have since reread this one and love it more the second time around.

This was definitely a slower paced character driven story. The horror aspects were incredibly well done. There were a lot of fantastic elements of psychological horror woven into the plot with some gruesome and memorable scenes. I also loved how the book provided so much social commentary on the prejudices and stereotyping of indigenous people. The themes in this novel were woven in the story in such a natural way. I felt that few of the sections towards the end drew out the story unnecessarily long, but overall I enjoyed this one.

Content warnings for harm to animals.

I would recommend this one to seasoned horror readers looking for a smart piece of diverse literary fiction.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada along with the audiobook version from LibroFM. 
Profile Image for Vonda.
318 reviews109 followers
May 20, 2020
Being an Indian and loving horror I was excited to get this ARC. The premise was original and intriguing, it drew me in. It turned out to be a huge disappointment. The writing was flat, banal and confusing. It was slow paced and just never grabbed me.
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews671 followers
August 13, 2020
This was horror of a different type, and the author did his job well.  However, I came close to shutting the cover on this book twice, almost willing to add another title to my DNF shelf rather than continue with it.  My GR buddies who know me best are aware of the thickness of my rhino skin, my sensibilities are practically non-existent.  But within these pages, there is something that just kept biting too close to the quick.  I reckon that is a sign of some fine writing, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Native American lore.  But 3 stars are all I can muster for my rating based strictly on personal preference.
Profile Image for Mayra Sigwalt.
Author 2 books2,173 followers
September 30, 2020
This was an amazing read. As an indigenous woman from Brazil, it's heartwarming reading a horror book written and about native peoples.
The pace of the book is very tense sometimes and very fast and crazy at others. The conclusion was just perfect.
The more I think about it, the more I love it!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
237 reviews208 followers
April 15, 2023
The Only Good Indians follows four Indigenous American 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.

The first 150 pages of this book were brilliant! The build up, the graphic horror scenes, the back story. It was atmospheric and bloody, everything I love in horror. I couldn’t stop reading. But then it all went downhill.

All of the momentum that was built up, suddenly gone. My attention was constantly slipping. I was pulled out of the story and finishing this became a bit of a chore.

There is no denying that this book is well written. The writing is beautiful. I also loved the setting and I enjoyed learning about reservation life and the Indigenous American culture.

I’m definitely not finished with this Author. I’m still looking forward to reading his recent release.
Profile Image for jenny✨.
563 reviews805 followers
October 16, 2020
If the only good Indian is a dead one, then she's going to be the worst Indian ever.


Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson is one of my favourite books of all time, entwining grief and magical realism. Cherie Dimaline's The Marrow Thieves offers a dystopia both bleak and brimming with hope. The monsters and slayer of Rebecca Roanhorse's Trail of Lightning will leap off their pages and straight into the darkest corners of your imagination.

And The Only Good Indians: If you let it, this book will worm its way under your skin. Suffuse you with dread. Force you to reckon with some scary feelings.

I say "if you let it," because I understand the book's prose won't be for everyone. The writing was, I can't deny, hard to get into and easy to lose track of. I struggled with the first few chapters until I realized this: I was going about it all wrong.

The Only Good Indians is SO much more than the sum of its word-parts. And to get at those gems—of which there are many—I had to shift my expectations. I implore that you do the same: Set aside any presumptions of the easily digestible, the immediately sensational. The sentences of this book aren't structured intuitively; chronology appears to hold little meaning. Non sequiturs abound. And the narration is a seamless passing of batons between characters—primarily the four men who set these bloody events in motion ten years earlier, though our villainess makes second-person appearances (and a grandfatherly orator also peeks in at the end).

The premise is quintessentially slasher. Ten Thanksgivings ago, four Blackfeet men—Ricky, Lewis, Gabe, and Cass—ventured into elders' territory and massacred a herd of elk they had no business killing. One of the slain animals becomes (or perhaps was, all along) Elk Head Woman, a supernatural entity who both manifests and perpetuates generational trauma in her ruthless quest for vengeance.

I reiterate: the writing is, as many reviewers have mentioned, hard to navigate. But good LORD is Stephen Graham Jones blackly funny! I loved this book's dark and deadpan delivery of the shitty/brilliant truths/fears that make up the realities of modern-day Indians. (Like when Lewis goes off about his Native swimmers (yes, of the reproductive variety) resembling "microscopic salmon"—I guarantee you'll do a spit take just like I did.)

FINALLY and no pun intended, I must mention the Final(s) Girl, Denorah. In a Goodreads interview, SGJ talks about subverting the final girl trope that pop culture's grown used to seeing:

In most slashers, it tends to become a muscle match—who can swing the machete the hardest. She doesn’t get to use the characteristics she’s been developing her whole life... I’ve always been uncomfortable with that. So with The Only Good Indians I was trying to make my stab at letting the final girl retain her own identity and win the day with compassion, rather than muscles.

And this is precisely what Denorah accomplishes in the book's ultimate (and my favourite) scene. Den is Gabe's preteen daughter and a fucking badass on the basketball court, tenacious and sure-footed and clever. She's going to be a star baller someday—but before then, she will play a life-or-death game of one-on-one with Elk Head Woman.

When she emerges from the other side, Denorah shows us what the four men (and Elk Head Woman herself) never thought possible: a way to break this cycle of violence and vengeance.

Original page from Deer Woman: A Vignette (see Deer Woman: An Anthology)


7/9/2020: I have been SO. HYPED. for this book for so long—I finally have my hands on an ARC and I'M OVER THE FREAKIN' MOON

Thank you NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for making this dream come true!
Profile Image for Christian.
289 reviews327 followers
November 21, 2021
Absolutely not what I was expecting, and 100%, positively not for me.

I don't know why I forced myself to finish this. I guess since I just came out of a bit of a slump, I should finish a book. But honestly, I knew within the first 50 pages that I wouldn't like this. And I don't usually want to rate a book 1 star unless I dnf'd it, but frankly, I dnf'd this one many times in my head. And there was close to nothing I liked about it even the slightest bit. So this rating feels fair for the braincells I lost.

The first thing I came to dislike was the writing. It felt awkward and boxy, the sentences were structured in a way that was unnecessarily convoluted, at times overly discriptive (I swear this novel was one fifth about basketball. There was so much basketball talk. And when it wasn't about basketball, it was about motorcycles. I am gay. I didn't understand and didn't care) and at others, it just failed to give essential context, leaving me confused, lost and frustrated. Part of this would be the cultural background of the four main characters. Granted, the author does not owe me an explanation on how Native reservations 'work' and certainly doesn't have to give me a history lesson, but as someone who loves learning new information through good fiction, this was a real missed opportunity for me personally.

The second thing I came to dislike was the characters. This is the type of book where I won't remember a single person in one week. Because they had no personality aside from being dumb idiots. I swear, the bullshit that came out of these men's mouths. All their actions felt supremely irrational, made no sense due to lack of motivation, and gave me a lot of "I'm an angry man and I shall deal with this violently!"-vibes. Often times a character would jump to a conclusion without literally any sort of evidence, solely based on speculation, which would then often just... result in murder?? I was at a loss for words.

The third thing, and by far the biggest issue I had with the book, is that it is not scary. It is actually super boring despite being very short. The only 'shocking' things it does, to me, is be incredibly, disturbingly violent towards animals. There was so, so much animal death in this book. As someone who is not usually bothered too much by human violence, but heavily affected by animals suffering, dying or being killed, it was an absolute nightmare to read, and not in a fun way. Four dogs were murdered in this novel. And for no reason. Plus, while the big, horrifying thing the four protagonists do in their early 20s was definitely a sickening passage to read, I can't help but feel it did not offer enough of an incentive for the revenge plot that then kicks into place. Those feelings probably make more sense if you also know what happens, but to me, it felt a little hypocritical to condemn their (undoubtedly idiotic and heartless) actions while turning a blind eye on other, similar transgressions.

So overall, what I got was a horror book that was not scary, had flat characters, and was mainly violence against animals, stupid men, basketball talk and motorcycle mechanics. Miss me with that.
Profile Image for marta the book slayer.
396 reviews901 followers
November 17, 2021
Was this a horror or basketball book?

That is a serious question because I felt like I was reading a sports book instead of a horror book and thus my rating should be no surprise, but in the event that you would like to hear my thoughts:

The premise of this novel made me believe that this would be a story of four friends facing the consequences of something they had done in their childhood by some demonic creature or something. Yeah that's kind of what happens but not really.

First of all the four friends are no longer friends so we have a weirdly divided novel that focuses on each of the characters with uneven pacing. One of the guys only gets one chapter!!! I'll be the first to admit this might have been my mistake - entering this novel with different expectations - so I had to quickly redshift my thoughts and focus on what was going on.

Except that was nearly impossible. The writing style was so horrid (maybe the only scary thing about this novel?) It was so choppy and lacked any flow. I had to re-read sentences multiple times to see if I missed something but I don't think I missed anything? It was like words were placed together with no reason. Again, I'll take the blame, I wasn't ready for this writing style but I'll give it a try and focus on the characters.

I despised them all! There was not one character I felt sorry for or wanted to root for. They were all the same grimy man, with the same attitude in their dialogue and no character development from how they were as children. If you catch my drift, a lot of things are started to go wrong about this novel - pace is off, writing style is off, now the characters - one more chance, I'll focus on the plot.

They are playing basketball and then in the next chapter they play basketball again (alright cool when is this going to get scary?) Oh is this lady going to be super creepy - no, she's just going to show off her basketball skills okay....


I mean at this point rename it The Only Good Basketball Playing Indians

I don't really care about spoilers in this novel because all I want to know is why the final showdown between the elk demon was a basketball game. Yes, you read that right. They had a playoff against an elk demon.

I can't. I'm sorry but I tried and suffered through this and writing this review is just pissing me off. Maybe I'll blow off some steam by playing basketball.

read as part of spooky season haunted tales that hopefully keep me up till the witching hour
🕸 picture of dorian gray
🕸 we have always lived in the castle
🕸 rules for vanishing
🕸 dracula
🕸 dangers of smoking in bed
🕸 fever dream
🕸 dr.jekyll and mr.hyde
🕸 the houseguest and other stories
🕸 frankenstein in baghdad
🕸 the woman in black
🕸 carmilla
🕸 the collector
🕸 the only good indians
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