I am not an “experienced” horror reader. I read a lot of true crime and violent thrillers, but when it comes to books that are traditionally classified as “horror”, well, then I believe “The Only Good Indians” is my first foray into that. And the jury is still out on if I like this genre, but I don’t think that’s the book’s fault? “The Only Good Indians” follows four young men after an upsetting event of their childhood comes back to haunt them (literally) on the ten-year anniversary of the event. Mixed in with the horror of being hunted by a force you don’t see coming, the author weaves in a seamless social commentary on what it’s like for American Indians both on and off the reservation. I really enjoyed those aspects, even though I can’t speak to the cultural representation. I thought they added a unique level to an already disturbing story. But I did have a hard time getting through this book, and not because I was too upset to read it, either.
I knew there was violence towards animals in this book. But I thought it was violence related to hunting, which plays a big part in this story. But no, there was a lot of graphic violence against dogs with a level of callousness that really bothered me—made worse by how unfeeling the characters view and treat their dogs, too. What happens to these animals isn’t necessarily scary, but it is gruesome and detailed and went on longer than necessary in my opinion. So if you are sensitive to that, just be forewarned. This is where my unfamiliarity with the horror genre comes in, because while I found those scenes upsetting, I wasn’t scared by them. Does horror simply rely on shock and gore more these days? Does the violence make it horrific rather than scary? I honestly don’t know. But, that aside, I also found the start of the book rather slow, and the writing style to be on the ramble-y side as the characters reminisce over their past encounters. Plus there was a lot more basketball and descriptions of playing basketball than I was prepared for, which, if you are a basketball fan, you’d probably like those scenes more than I did.
That being said, I did enjoy the themes this book had. Where, when these four men violate the trust of their tribe, which has them living on the outside of their people, even more so when the consequences of their actions begin to infiltrate their lives. I liked the creature that hunted the men and its relentless determination to make them pay, to get back what was so ruthlessly taken from it. I liked seeing how the monster wormed its way into their lives, especially Lewis and wish more time had been spent on the elements in his section then what we got in the later half of the book where everything was a bit too overt. But, at the end of the day, I think I liked the idea of this book more than its actual execution which is why I’m giving it 3 stars and am still undecided on if I like the horror genre as a whole.
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