After reading Stephen Graham Jones’ The faster Redder Road: The Best Unamerican Stories of Stephen Graham Jones I purchased his first novel The Fast Red Road: A Plainsong.
Why? Because I can’t get enough Stephen Graham Jones in my life. And lucky for me, because he’s got 20+ novels and over 220 short stories for me to get my hands into.
I’ve been trying to explain who SGJ is and what he writes to several people in my life recently and all I can come up with is he’s a literary master who writes in any and all genres to get his stories across. Recently I was able to sit down with him and I told him flat out that I think he writes some of the most beautiful – and disturbing – stories that I’ve ever read.
He said, “Thank you – that’s what I’m aiming for.”
The faster Redder Road: The Best Unamerican Stories of Stephen Graham Jones is a compilation of SGJ’s short stories and novel excerpts collected by Theodore C. Van Alst.
SGJ is Blackfeet Indian and all of his protagonists are Indian as well, which is where the term “un-American” in the title came from. It’s a different point of view than what I’m used to, but by no means is he only a Native American author.
If you’ve never read SGJ (and if you haven’t, you should be!), or even if you have, the foreword will give you a great deal of information and backstory on who he is as well as an overview of the stories and excerpts in the book. I usually skip the foreword if written by the editor, but this one did not disappoint.
27 short stories from different collections and 8 novel excerpts await you to give you just a taste of what SGJ writes. Each is a literary masterpiece and a large variety of genres are included here: horror, science fiction, noir and even western raise their head to make an appearance.
My four favorite stories are:
“Father, Son and Holy Rabbit” – this is my all-time favorite SGJ read as of this moment. It tops my own list as one of the best short stories I have ever read. A father goes to extraordinary lengths to keep his son alive in a blizzard, thanks to a rabbit named Slaney.
“Lonegan’s Luck” – a snake-oil salesman in the Old West serves up a bit more than even he bargains for when he stumbles across a sleepy little town.
“Rendezvous With Sula Prime” – a burnt-out veterinarian meets another who wants him to treat an animal who is supposed to be extinct.
“Raphael” – through stories, four kids discover something awful, leading to the death of one of them.
At the end of each story, SGJ has taken the time to give the reader an idea of what was going on in his mind when writing the story and how he takes memories of his past and fuses them with story ideas and suggestions to come up with some of the darkest stories I’ve ever read.
And they’re not just dark. They’re gruesome and believable – SGJ takes these moments and makes them real for you. In my own reading, I’ve had to stop and read something a bit more lighthearted before continuing.
But that’s not because they’re not good. They’re almost too good. They’re like a savory dish that you don’t want to eat all at once. You only discover the worm on the inside when you’ve bitten through it.