Mapping the Interior

      Publisher: Tor 

      RRP: £8.56

      Author: Stephen Graham Jones 

      Published:  2017-07-18

 

 

 


Walking through his own house at night, a fifteen-year-old thinks he sees another person stepping through a doorway. Instead of the people who could be there, his mother or his brother, the figure reminds him of his long-gone father, who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows it he discovers his house is bigger and deeper than he knew. The house is the kind of wrong place where you can lose yourself and find things you'd rather not have. Over the course of a few nights, the boy tries to map out his house in an effort that puts his little brother in the worst danger, and puts him in the position to save them . . . at terrible cost.


 

A creepy, psychological thriller about family, loss and fancy dancing, crammed into just 96 unsettling pages.

 

A young man, trying to make his way in the world, and to understand why his mother has moved him and his brother to this new house; at first, our narrator seems to us perfectly reasonable, one night whilst sleep walking, he sees a figure, whom he believes to be his long-dead father, come back to watch over them. 

Rapidly, we see that our narrator might not be as reliable as he first seemed, whilst at the same time discovering that perhaps his Father is not all he first seemed. Strange things start to happen, and as our narrator struggles to find out the truth, his family seems to be tearing itself quite rapidly apart. The young narrator eventually banishes his father, returning many years later with the brother he worked so hard to protect, to try to find the way to use the power of his father for his own son.

There are two ways to read this story; in one, a young man dreams or imagines a series of terrifying occurrences, leading to his killing a number of dogs, and eventually taking steps that he believes will lead to, if not the death, then at least great physical harm to his own brother. The other is to invest in the narrator's viewpoint, to believe that spirits can influence the living world, and those we have lost never truly leave us and could take us over to reform themselves and relive their lives. As the only view we are offered belongs to the young narrator it is this viewpoint we are drawn to invest in. Between the moments of terror, Graham offers us a view of what it is to be a young Native American away from the reservation he grew up on, and the people he depended on. 

We get to see a world in which the young narrator is trying desperately to be the man of the house, to look after his mother and brother following the death of his father, and to find himself as a man without a strong male role model. 

At the same time as being an unsettling, scifi-esque horror of vengeful spirits who can harm the living, Mapping the Interior offers a beautiful portrait of a young man passing through puberty, and the struggles and the uncertainty that it entails. We see moments of pure innocence, wanting to pretend that everything is more exciting than it is, that anything is possible. When he tries to help his younger brother during a seizure, his information comes from old cowboy movies off the telly. When he reflects on his mother, it is mostly with fondness, in spite of her refusal to talk to him about his fathe or to entertain the idea that his spirit might be present in their new house. 

The closing pages are where we find Mapping the Interior at its most unsettling. Our narrator has, or at least believes he has, vanquished his father, and now, many years later, he is himself a fancy dancer, as he thought his father might have been, and is now hoping to use the same apparent magic for his own son despite the view he has given us of its potential destruction in the world.

Jones offers an astute commentary on being a Native American in America’s recent past, in ways that are dropped in throughout the book, mentioning his fathers’ debts, drinking, and his own families’ attempts to escape the reservation. He remarks that they have left, but that the mentality goes with them, and how those who die young are talked of in what they might’ve done, rather than what they had achieved. In amongst the horror, is a tale of deprivation, and trying to succeed in a world where the odds seem stacked against you.


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