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Book Review: Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

“Fans of Stephen Graham Jones will find their expectations shattered in all the right ways, while newcomers will find themselves introduced to their new favorite writer.”

MappingTheInteriorStephen Graham Jones is a true master of storytelling in any format. Novel, short-story, novella, comics, it doesn’t matter, because you know he’s going to pack a ton of story into the format, so much so that what’s inside is bursting at the seams, eager to get into your mind. With his latest novella, Mapping the Interior, Jones proves once again that nothing matters more than the story and the characters that inhabit the worlds he creates.

A young boy sees his long dead father in his house at night. As much as he misses his father, and much as he needs a father in his life, there’s always fear in the unknown. His younger brother, Dino, suffering from seizures, lives in a world of television cartoons and superhero action figures. Their mother struggles to make ends meet, raising her sons by herself, doing everything she can to keep some semblance of a family together the only ways she knows how. Our protagonist watches for his father’s return every night, and discovers the dimensions of his world are larger than he could possibly imagine, and go deeper than anyone could ever expect. One wrong turn in this world leads him in a direction he probably shouldn’t have gone, and once some doors are opened, you can never close them again.

Though only 112 pages, Jones packs a massive amount of story here. No sentence is wasted. Dealing with growing up Native American, life on and away from the reservation, memory and how time and emotions distort what we remember, and superstitions and how we work and weave our lives around them to keep them alive, there’s much more story here than the pages can contain. Combining aspects of ghost-stories and psychological horror, Jones barely keeps the creep factor on the backburner, focusing more on emotional resonance. As usual, his characters are instantly relatable yet complex and extremely compelling. We need to know what happens to them, even if knowing will break our hearts. When the creepy does come onscreen, it does the job on multiple levels, which is where horror works best, both emotionally and unpredictably.

This is a novella meant to be read in one sitting. With an easy-going, almost conversational style, Jones dives deep into the mind of a teenager we all know. The story is raw and personal, and somewhat difficult to define, which means it is best left for the readers to discover for themselves. Everyone will come away from the story with a different interpretation, a distinctive and personal experience. Jones answers the questions, but each answer asks more questions, which is exactly what good fiction is supposed to do. Fans of Stephen Graham Jones will find their expectations shattered in all the right ways, while newcomers will find themselves introduced to their new favorite writer. Mapping the Interior will leave all readers changed by the experience, as the story lingers long after you’ve finished, coursing through the interior of your heart, where things matter the most.

 

BOB PASTORELLA

 

Publisher: Tor

Paperback: (112 pp)

Release Date: 20 June 2017

 

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