Well far out dude, what the hell is this? What just happened?
I don’t generally have the patience or inclination to write book reviews, and this is not one. I read quite a bit of horror, because I like it, but you wouldn’t know what I was reading if you were there with me while I was reading it, its not like I am watching a film and jumping in my seat at the spooky bits. I’m not so much jaded as perhaps, used to things.
But now, I’m sitting upstairs after another day of covid-induced working from home (not complaining, thank the good Lord I have had work right through this plague) reading a book on the lounge next to my wife who is watching TV, and she says “what?”, and I’ve dropped the book into my lap and I’m sort of staring, and she says “what?” again, and I say, “I cannot believe that just happened”. I mean, there was the lead in, the fellow was doing something odd, but then – WTF? He did that … and I did not see it coming.
I’ve read Stephen Graham Jones before – there’s “Mongrels” on the shelf over there – including plenty of his short fiction, of course I have, it would be hard to miss him if you enjoy horror. I bought “The Only Good Indians” on the basis of excellent reviews, but I didn’t read it straight away, because I did not want sad, and I thought with a title like that, there is going to be some sad. The world is a hard place, and harder for some people, and none of us should hide from that, but I kept putting it off. And covid has made it harder, more difficult to concentrate on novels. I’ve been reading more novellas and short stories. Then when I started reading, the first section confirmed (I thought) what what it was going to be, with the death of a character.
Then I am reading on my lunch break, and its a scene about hunting and its aftermath, which includes dressing and skinning, which is really not dressing, is it, but I digress, and the thought came to me, maybe I shouldn’t be reading this while I am eating. That was not a thought I have ever had to have before. And it is not because it was gory – I’ve read plenty of gore. I’m not desensitised, it is just that I can tell the difference between a story and reality. It is more that this was real, and in specific ways, with its particular wording and pacing and evoking the feelings of the charcter involved. It was good writing, to a horrific end.
Later, after work, I am reading what this character is going through, his thoughts, his worries, his growing paranoia, and it led somewhere, and perhaps I should have seen it, but I didn’t think this fellow would do the thing he did, but he did, and I was truly shocked. I dropped the book. And I can’t tell you what it was because I don’t want to spoil anything, so this is how I’ll tell you – I was intrigued at the bottom of page 106 as to where this was going, and it happened in the first line of page 107, and I did not know it would. And the way it happened. And went on happening. How the whole thing played out.
And I read on. And as a result of what happened, something else started to happen on page 113 (see, I write great reviews) which I can’t share, and I’m watching a car accident in slow motion, because the exact same scene had played itself out earlier in the book, but with the shift, there is no guarantee it will end the same, and I’m thinking no, and the five second scene runs over two pages, and … . No. He didn’t. No.
And I dropped the book again.
Then the next scene was freaking nuts, with me muttering “bullshit” in a steady tone, which if you know me, is a term of high praise.
So, what I am trying to say is that without any surprise twists, in scenes that had been appropriately built up, with characters acting in accordance with their development, following a (crazy) internal logic, Professor Jones managed to shock me more in 6 pages than I have been shocked since reading at what was it, age 16?, how Danny Torrance turned his back on the naked woman in the bathtub in The Shining, and had convinced himself quite correctly that she could not possibly be real, at which point her hands closed around his little boy throat.
So yeah, the blurb goes … seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary , and that is true and all, but that is not what I wanted to tell you about. What I want to say is:
Well done. Great writing. This isn’t a book review, because I don’t write them because I am no good at them and I haven’t even finished the book yet, but I wanted to just note down the effect it has had on me. And maybe I am procrastinating a little – if it has had this effect on me so far, who knows what might come next?