Review: Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones
Tor (2017)
112 pages; $7.07 paperback; $1.99 e-book
Reviewed by Chad Lutzke

Mr. Jones doesn’t know it yet, but we have a lot in common. When writing, we both dig deep for the little boy inside that’s packed full of maybe too much emotion, then put him in a situation where maybe we could never survive ourselves; maybe we wouldn’t want to even try. Then dig deeper still for all that hurt and confusion from our own lives invested in this and that, take it and use it in stories that are meant to do much more than entertain, but to touch people, make them consider. Mapping the Interior does that perfectly.

This novella is a coming-of-age tale regarding a teenage boy with Native-American roots who believes he’s just seen his deceased father creep from one room to the next. His imagination explores wild avenues, and the boy spends the remainder of the book putting together clues on what exactly he’s seen and why, all the while keeping a watchful eye on his younger, seizure-suffering brother.

Those who have read Stephen’s Bram Stoker Award-nominated Mongrels will see a familiar attitude in the narrative, as they are both first-person coming-of-age tales with similarities in voice. And while Jones’ prose is top notch, there are some entries that cause a bump in the flow. Overall, I think most of that has everything to do with Jones’ keeping true to the voice of the young protagonist.

Mapping the Interior is dense and complex. My summarization above is a poor one when paralleled with the actual story. This is no simple ghost story written to cheaply scare, and if you read it as such then you will turn the last page feeling underwhelmed. It is a much more heartfelt, much more cerebral story that I can see going over some heads, much in the way the film The Babadook did.

Right now, I’m very excited for a few reasons. I know Stephen Graham Jones is passionate about writing and likes to stay prolific, so there will be plenty more to come. Great! Another is, with the exception of two other books, there’s a whole catalog I’ve yet to read from this author.


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