In The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones marries the horror genre with an indigenous slant to storytelling and theme. So, the book succeeds as a chilling horror story but also a meditation on respect and compassion for animals: I found it hard, emotionally, to read the character Lewis's initial killing of a young elk. That scene wasn't overdone, just unflinching in its details.
Here's a handful of other fiction elements that really work in The Only Good Indians: Standard third person point of view tells most of the story, but Jones's judicious use of second person viewpoint (narration with "you," not "he/she" or "I") for the elk-spirit was deliciously creepy:
"The way you protect your calf is you slash out with your hooves. Your own mother did that for you, high in the mountains of your first winter. Her black hoof snapping forward against those snarling mouths was so fast, so pure, . . . leaving a perfect arc of red droplets behind it. But hooves aren't always enough."
Regarding voice, almost every page contains wry humour. Always a good thing, in my opinion. And in terms of subject matter and description, I learned a lot about basketball, as some of the characters are interested in, or talented at, the game.
Finally, the plot forms a revenge tale, but the theme is the idea, "a deep wrong must be righted." If the wrong is against nature, even more so.
Copyright © R.B. Young
R.B. Young is the author of the novel Crimes of Disrespect and of short stories in Canadian and American literary journals. He lives in Kingston, Ontario.