Stephen Jones’ “The Only Good Indians” Actually Provides Closure

I purchased The Only Good Indians back in June as a desperate attempt to get back into reading — a lifelong hobby of mine that had taken the backseat in recent years. After a few ill-timed attempts, I finally blew through the book during a camping trip. It proved itself to be just the kindling I needed to relight my interest in reading. Here, I will be sharing my thoughts and praises — no spoilers included.

Jones’ work of horror fiction begins on a prophetic note. On the opening page, he adorns a quote, reading: This scene of terror is repeated all too often in elk country every season. Over the years, the hunters’ screams of anguish have rocked the timber. The back-of-cover description, too, provided me with a structured and intriguing analysis. It is no simple feat to commodify an entire novel into a short, convincing paragraph, but Jones accomplished that. For those curious, it reads, “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.” All things considered (opening quote, cover, and description), this book deems itself worthy of a reader’s chance.

I understood this book to be collection of differing perspectives — short stories, if you will. The book began with Ricky, and then moves onto Lewis, Gabriel and Cassidy. In each section, we witness the slow — but gruesome — unraveling of each of our four character’s lives. As the book progresses and intensifies, we reach the anniversary of their infamously gory and unjust hunting trip. The unifying factor of it all is the vengeful entity who is out for justice — justice that was never before sought for them, or their kin. And break even, this entity will. This book is twisted and unpredictable, but never without cause. In my opinion, it is worth being excited over.

And while this book is deeply physiological, it still maintains a level of dry humor and coolness throughout. Jones’ style of writing flows together, and reveals itself in real time with the narrative. While there is a fair amount of foreshadowing, there was never a time that I could predict what would come next. In fact, there were times while reading this book that I had to put it down — not because I was disappointed with an outcome, but because I was genuinely shocked by it. And as this vengeful entity slowly drives each of our characters to their grand demise, the narrative itself never falls into obscurity — the writing remains lucid, and engaging. I say this, because I have found that psychological thrillers have a tendency to fade into absurdness in order to work around plot-holes and gaps in the storyline. This book never seemed to have a need for that, as each section egged us towards its inevitable end. Truly, this book was not afraid of ending — it contained no extra fluff, or points devoid of plot relevance. This made it an even sharper and more impactful read, although a bit blunt.

It comes as no surprise, then, that the ending actually provides the reader with closure. I felt like I had actually accomplished something upon reaching the end of this book — a feeling I can’t say I get often from reading. Moreover, the ending is almost heartwarming, even with the grave karmic nature of the narrative. For this, I truly admire Jones’ writing — The Only Good Indians was never without substance, maintaining a carefully calibrated plot up until its end, with clear objectives and even clearer displays of the author’s will. While it is cut and dry in some aspects, it is this inherit level of deliberateness that makes the book impressive. The story began with the mistakes Ricky, Lewis, Gabriel and Cassidy had failed to bury, and in the end, their wrongs were made right. And it is the furiouisity and shockiness of how these wrongs came to be righted that we will discuss upon finishing this book, not how anticlimactic its ending was.

All in all, I consider this book a solid choice for any fan of psychological thrillers or horror. And even if horror isn’t your speed, I stand by my claims that the humor, style and soundness of this book can make its genre enjoyable.

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