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Fire on the Mountain

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  1,116 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Edward Abbey was a hero to environmentalists and rebels of every stripe. With Fire on the Mountain, this literary giant of the New West gave readers a powerful, moving, and enduring tale that gloriously celebrates the undying spirit of American individualism. This fiftieth anniversary edition, with an introduction by historian Douglas Brinkley, reminds readers of Abbey's p ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 9th 2012 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published January 1st 1962)
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Wonderful book, I can certainly see why "Fire on the Mountain" is considered a classic Western too.

Set in the early 1960's rancher John Vogelin now in his 70's is having a hard time adjusting to the modern changes affecting the ranch that has been in his family since the 1800's. And he certainly doesn't appreciate the young man from the Range Management Bureau who recently visited his ranch and tried to tell him what he's doing wrong all in the name of conservation.

To make matters even worse his
The story is pretty basic: John Vogelin's ranch lies right next to the White Sands Missile Range and The Government needs to expand its territory (in the interests of national security to fight those scary Russkies). Gradually all of Vogelin's neighbors cave to the inevitability of Eminent Domain, leaving this stubborn old man standing against the might of the U.S. military. The entire thing plays out like a train wreck is super-slow motion because you just know how it's going to end, and it's n ...more
one of the worst books I have ever read
The premise of this book is interesting: the rugged individual takes on the overpowering state, David vs. Goliath, the stuff of old western comics. However the execution failed, in my view.

In a nutshell, an old rancher is being driven off his land in New Mexico to make way for a missile testing site. He resists and self-destructs. And the story reminds the reader that change is inevitable and those who resist it get run over. At a deeper level it also reminds us that America may be the home of t
I hated this book!
Once upon a time there was a desert. In this desert there were yucca plants. And jackrabbits. And timothy grass.
John Vogelin didn't want the U.S. government to take away his farm. So he sat on the porch and had a told the guy that he wasn't going to give it up. Then the next day, a new man came by to persuade him. He sat on the porch and talked to him once more. And while he was doing this, his grandson Billy fetched them ice water.
I wouldn't call this a young adult novel, even though Billy's
Patrick Gibson
Feb 24, 2009 Patrick Gibson rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love western folklore
A simple story: an elderly man indelibly bonded to his ranch twenty miles west of Alamogordo, New Mexico is being pressured by the Federal Government to relinquish his heritage due to expansion of the missile testing range at White Sands. A story told by his twelve year old grandson from Pittsburgh who helps work the ranch every summer. But more than a story: poetry. The boy, like the old man, is drawn to the magnificent beauty of the vast panoramic landscapes. The shimmering of the purple deser ...more
Clifford Novey
Hard when the rating system goes from "really liked it" to "amazing" - a much over used word here in Los Angeles- but I did really love this book. Seen through the eyes of an adolescent visiting his grandfather's desert ranch one summer- it has drama and tension, excitement and struggle- and the choice to view it all through the eyes of a child seems a perfect one. The US wants to expand it's nuclear test grounds to include the ranch and the grandfather will not stand for it. Rather than use a h ...more
The narrator in the book named Billy, a 12-year old grandson of John Vogelin - New Mexico rancher of Box V Ranch, tells the story about man vs. government, man vs. nature, and man vs. man. Billy lives in Pittsburgh with his family, so Billy gets to visit his grandfather annually during the summer. However, that summer is turning point for Billy, John and other characters in the book. John stands up to the United State Government about the property expansion by seizing his property. The property ...more
Ed Patterson
I am a fan of Edward Abbey. I like the way that he puts a story together, and this little story came together beautifully. The plot is simple, the outcome predictable. But Abbey drew me in and I enjoyed reading this not-overly-drawn-out novel.

Simply put, a young man from Philadelphia visits his Grandfather's New Mexico ranch on summer vacation. The ranch is about to be incorporated into the White Sands Missile Range, and the Grandfather refuses to sell under any condition. The old man is a stubb
Abbey was christened by one critic as the Thoreau of the American West. His musings on the beauty of deserts, mountains, forests and wildlife is trumped by his outrage over their reckless exploitation and development. He is capable of both Thoreau's mystical intoxication with Nature expressed in Walden and his indignation with government interference that seeps from the pages of Civil Disobedience. But Abbey also translated his love of the West and his environmental activism into novels like The ...more
His grandson, Billy, tells the end of New Mexico rancher John Vogelin’s life. Billy’s annual summer visit to the Box V Ranch is disrupted by the United States. The government seizes the ranch to expand the White Sands Missile Range. Despite the arguments of his friend, Lee Mackie and the increasing show of force demonstrated by courts, law enforcement and military, John Vogelin refuses to leave his former property, a decision that leads to his death. The fire in the title is his funeral pyre. Th ...more
Tina Cipolla
The story in this book is both dated and contemporary. The reason the gov't is taking the land is for a missile range which is long since built--and I don't think they do much testing out there anymore now. (I could be wrong.) It is also contemporary because the feds can still come and take away your land at any time because of their projects, be it roads, military bases, national parks, etc... Fire on the Mountain looks at this issue from the perspective of the home owner without falling into s ...more
In "Fire on the Mountain," Abbey created three static characters and a minimal plot to rhapsodize about anarchy, love for land, and strength of character.

As is par for the course for Abbey, the writing has its weak spots, but it is punctuated by unvarnished beauty and lyricism. He's always at his best when straining to communicate his crochety, hermetic brand of love for the desert, and he takes plenty of time during this one-sitting read to do so.

This grumpy, freewheeling ode to freedom is like
Sep 20, 2009 Nicole rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who enjoy a short nature novel
This was the first E. Abbey book I've read. Never really thought of giving him a try, but am glad that I did. The descriptions through the grandson's eyes of the desert southwest, and the grandfather and Lee's unique perspective of how life fits together there were wonderful. Brought to the surface the differences between those who live in a place for no other reason than 'just because' -- just because they have a job there, or some obligation (as could be said for the military people at White s ...more
Someone I have great respect for gave me this book it didn't disappoint. It was a great vacation and a quick read reminding us all how many acts of resistance makeup progress
This is a fine story, and a thoughtful study of anarchism, and how it can lead one to die all alone, filled with sorrow, in a barren desert.
as i believe white sands to be one of the most majestic places on earth, fire on the mountain resonated deeply. told from the perspective of a twelve year-old boy visiting his grandfather during a summer vacation, abbey excoriates the encroachment of the military onto civilian land (too, the intrusion of civilization upon as yet unspoiled terrain). in the novel (as in present day new mexico), there is a striking contrast between the incomparable serenity of white sands and the stark ferocity of ...more
Mark Engelbert
Really enjoyed this book. Have not read Edward Abbey in quite some time. His descriptions of the landscape were outstanding! The ending was quite fitting!
I very much enjoyed this story. As a whole it did a fantastic job at mixing the ideas common to Abbey's novels; a respect for a desert environment, strong headed independent characters up against the odds, and a struggle based around a strong political view.
The youthful main character and the simple setting in which this story takes place keep the story moving from page to page.
Personally this was the best ending i have read in a Abbey novel.
I would suggest it to any one wanting to read about
Another fantastic Abbey novel.
Best novel about eminent domain I've read yet.
About time for an Abbey re-read. Ed's 3rd book of fiction. Next came Desert Solitaire, the book that gave Abbey his lasting voice.
Better this time than the first. Future character names appear [Hayduke].
Story told by the grandson of a tough old rancher being forced off his land by the government and the ensuing battles of heart and violence. Wonderful ending which I won't describe.
Not Abbey's best but well worth a read.
This is certainly not Abbey's best, but it was entertaining nonetheless. I know The Brave Cowboy was his first novel, but in many ways this feels like it as written first. It has a much more juvenile feel (of course, the narrator is 12, but the plot itself feels less complex as well).

Abbey's other writing is significantly better, but if you just want a quick escape into the New Mexico desert, this is a fun, fast read.
Dinah Reed
I have only read the first two chapters so far. It will be a quick read. It's first person narrative from a 12 year old boy who is from Pennsylvania, and visiting his Grandfather who has a ranch near Trinity, White Sands Dunes in New Mexico (where they tested the A-bomb). His grandfather is subject to losing the ranch by the government, set in 1960s. Lot's of descriptive geography text which I love.
It deserves a 4 for it's writing - beautiful prose... Edward Abbey is descriptive, passionate and a great story teller - characters are real, stubborn, loving, and human... It's a story of the land, and the love of that land... love to the point of pain... I may not agree with Abbey's views... and the story is a bit disturbing... for that I'd give it a 3... but I'm glad I finished it.
Novel about an old man, his ranch, grandson and a friend, and the encroaching military industrial machine. The boy learns a thing or two, the man's friend doesn't want to see the old man go through the trauma he has no choice but to endure, and the military industrial state doesn't give a shit about any of them.
Sarah Skinner
Not a huge fan of how government takings are handled (emotional value of land can rarely be fully compensated for) but also didn't like how the main character handled the situation. Soooo, I have mixed feelings about the book, which maybe was the intent?? In any case- a great story by a great writer.
The Riverton High School read for the summer. John Vogelin in a rancher in the desert of New Mexico and the government wants his land. The rights of a person verses the rights of the government to take land. I am not sure how the high schoolers will like the book however thought provoking.
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Abbey attended college in New Mexico, and then worked as a park ranger and fire lookout for the National Park Service in the Southwest. It was during this time that he developed the relationship with the area's environment that influenced his writing. During his service, he was in close proximity to the ruins of ancient Native American cultures and saw the expansion and destruction of modern civil ...more
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Desert Solitaire The Monkey Wrench Gang (Monkey Wrench Gang, #1) The Fool's Progress Hayduke Lives! (Monkey Wrench Gang, #2) The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West

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