Death is too easy. Better to make every moment of the rest of a person’s life agony.
When Netgalley announced audiobook review copies, I was all over it! And though I have criticisms for the Netgalley shelf app, I’m so glad I got my hands on this one! The Only Good Indians, written by Stephen Graham Jones and narrated by Shaun Taylor-Corbett, is a top notch horror story that works so well as an audiobook.
Rating: 4 stars!
Thanks to Whole Story QUEST for the audiobook review copy of this book, it has not affected my honest review.
Trigger Warnings: a LOT of graphic animal violence, graphic violence, alcohol abuse, hunting, murder, stalking (supernatural).
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.
What did I think?
I listened to the audiobook version of The Only Good Indians, and I absolutely recommend this book as an audio experience. Shaun Taylor-Corbett does an excellent job narrating, and really brings all of the characters to life. I liked that he did a great job of making all the characters sound distinct enough that I didn’t need dialogue tags to be able to tell who was speaking, even in the high-tension moments. Throughout the entire audiobook I stayed engaged and I didn’t get too lost at any point, even with the perspective shifts. I did get confused during the basketball sections, but that’s more my complete lack of basketball knowledge than the book itself!
The atmosphere in The Only Good Indians is unbelievably good. It’s built up slowly and steadily, creating an eerie world where, for a good portion of the book, I just wasn’t sure whether there was something supernatural afoot or whether I was being drawn into the main characters’ paranoia. And when it does ramp up? This book goes hard. There was a point where I audibly ‘oof’d at a piece of vivid and horrible description. It is explained why the events of the book are taking place, ten years after Lewis, Gabe, Cass and Ricky illegally hunted in the territory reserved for the Elders of the Reservation. The way that the story unfolds; the past being revealed and then each of the men being hunted one by one; was incredibly well-done and I spent most of the book waiting and worrying about the consequences of their actions. And the way that they were haunted, the revenge that the entity chose to take, was absolutely brutal and made for a very slasher-esque horror, without any of the trope-iness I usually worry about with slashers.
I love the way the book tackles guilt and remorse, as well as a twisted and violent sense of revenge, but my favourite aspect was definitely the way that The Only Good Indians looked at the way the men were driven to madness by their fear, and how that could cause them to lash out. The main characters aren’t actually bad people. They’re good people who did one bad thing that they haven’t been able to shake, and that’s infinitely more compelling to me than just ‘bad people getting punished’.
The Only Good Indians is packed full of cultural references, some that I recognised but a fair amount that I, as a white reader, had to stop and educate myself about. I haven’t read much, if any, Indigenous horror before, but this was accessible enough to have me understand the folklore and superstitions that underpinned its plot, without feeling like it was pandering to readers who weren’t familiar with them. I really liked the way it tackled the way that cultural perceptions of Native American communities have been weaponised against their members, and how they’ve become embedded in the communities themselves. However, I am a white reader/reviewer, so be sure to take a look at ownvoices reviewers for any commentary on the rep.
Add it on Goodreads here!