Are you looking for a horror novel that owns its Indigenous mythology and isn’t just a bunch of white people with a terrible depiction of a Wendigo and a racist representation of a sage “Indian” who helps the stupid white Americans? The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones might be just what you are after.
The Only Good Indians is a horror novel following a group of Blackfeet men. 10 years ago a hunting trip turned into something more. Today, their actions have come back to haunt them, or rather, hunt them.
The first half of the book follows Lewis. He has moved off the reserve, gotten married, and now works as a postman. His story has the creeping horror and growing dread of gothic horror. It all starts with a new coworker and an unrelated hallucination. But it is enough to send Lewis slowly spiralling into suspicion and fear. I loved the ending of Lewis’ story. I thought it fit well into his mental spiral and paved the way for the second half of the book.
While the first half of The Only Good Indians felt like gothic horror, the second half feels like American (supernatural) slasher horror with the added Blackfeet mythology and reservation setting.
I did not enjoy the second half of the novel as much as the first half. Generally, I prefer gothic style horror over slasher style horror, so the second half didn’t interest me as much. I think there was plenty of opportunity for tension within the text, the interactions of the characters, the new point of view from the entity hunting these men, but it just didn’t pull through in the same way as the first half.
I still enjoyed The Only Good Indians, it is a really interesting horror novel, and who doesn’t love vengeance? It is also a great option for decolonizing your bookshelf. The Only Good Indians really illustrates the social, political, and economic barriers to Indigenous peoples, while also highlighting generational differences and the multi-generational nature of trauma.
If you are a horror fan, definitely check out The Only Good Indians.