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Far Bright Star

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  488 Ratings  ·  131 Reviews
The year is 1916. The enemy, Pancho Villa, is elusive. Terrain is unforgiving. Through the mountains and across the long dry stretches of Mexico, Napoleon Childs, an aging cavalryman, leads an expedition of inexperienced horse soldiers on seemingly fruitless searches. Though he is seasoned at such missions, things go terribly wrong, and his patrol is suddenly at the mercy ...more
Hardcover, 207 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by Algonquin Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryBlood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthyThe Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWittTrue Grit by Charles PortisAll the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Literary Westerns
134 books — 229 voters
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria RemarqueCatch-22 by Joseph HellerSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutThe Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienThe Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
Best War Novels
774 books — 760 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jul 19, 2016 Cody rated it it was amazing
I feel like Robert Olmstead doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Maybe it’s because his novels tend to be shorter reads. Maybe it’s because he isn’t a prolific writer. Maybe it’s because his books can be too brutal for the casual reader. Whatever the reason, people should pay more attention to this guy.

“Far Bright Star” is a brisk read but is one of the more beautiful novels I have read in quite some time. I am writing this review several years after I read it but I can remember details as i
Aug 24, 2009 Steve rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, westerns
If, years from now, there were a recognized school of Cormac McCarthy influenced writers, there is little doubt – to my mind at least --that Robert Olmstead would be pointed out as the leading practitioner. Olmstead knows the drill – guns, extreme violence, campfire philosophy, gorgeous (and stark) landscapes, realistic dialogue, all of which are captured in a dark poetry of language that seems to jump the whole deal into a kind of an American myth. A perfect example is Olmstead’s earlier Civil ...more
May 12, 2009 Brian rated it really liked it
I won this book through a First Reads giveaway.

Far Bright Star was an amazing journey. It's a beautifully crafted story of pain and loss, and the unknown road ahead. Human nature is defined and examined throughout Napolean's journey.

The style was different than most everything I've read but within a few pages it was apparent that it fit the world Robert Olmstead was creating extremely well. The prose overall was superb and realized a rich and detailed world of war that was captivating start to f
Bill Krieger
Jun 23, 2011 Bill Krieger rated it really liked it
This is great guy reading: the Mexican desert, rugged individuals, horses, soldiers and mercenaries and ultra-violence. Olmstead's terse but romantic writing style sets a perfect tone for the story. His description of the desert heat was amazing. If I described them to you, the characters would sound like caricatures, but they feel rich and alive when you're reading the book. Excellent!

"His was a dirty death, but in the end if was his own death and no one else's and it'd been waiting here fo
Jul 06, 2009 Charisse rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I started this book thinking I would be reading about a group of men trying to bring in Pancho Villas, a little western action etc...

This is a gritty, sparse novel which revolves around one event really. Napolean is an aging veteran who guides a misfit crew of men out into the Mexican landscape to find Pancho Villas. What happens to Napolean and his men is horrific and violent. Olmstead does a great job describing human nature and the need to survive. He reminds me a bit of McCarthy - terse yet
May 29, 2009 Terra rated it it was amazing
This is not a book I would typically read; initially I thought I had erroneously picked a western (oh horrors!), but I really enjoyed this book! I found myself wanting to write down passage after passage. It is a skilled author that makes me slow down and think. Robert Olmstead has down this.
Jul 06, 2009 Jill rated it it was amazing
This was the most interesting literary novel I have read since "No Country for Old Men." Olmstead knows how to write fascinating characters, while his prose is simultaneously muscular and lyrical. All of this coupled with a good plot makes 'Far, Bright Star" impossible to put down.
Jun 29, 2014 Melinda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This western is porn for readers who are into extreme violence; I assume the only people who give the book five stars are those who sit through endless Tarrantino movies and felt positively chipper after reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Really. The first part of the book describes, in hyper-realized detail, the gory deaths of all the men in the troop except the leader and the smart ass that fires the first shot. You can bet Olmstead has got something really special planned for them. Then, the ...more
Dec 07, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it
Far Bright Star by Robert Olmstead

$24.95, May 2009, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Olmstead has the ability to imagine a world, a rich fully realized world, and to put it into words so that the reader walks in the very same landscape that the characters do, thinking their thoughts and suffering their pain. And Olmstead’s Far Bright Star is indeed filled with pain, inflicted trauma, violence and two very strong brothers linked by a lifetime of service in pointless wars and desolate lands. And th
Sep 06, 2012 Ben rated it it was ok
Far Bright Star was a beautiful story hindered by Olmstead's steadily infuriating prose. I've never read anything that made me want to throw it against the wall with such force. Olmstead's writing is terse, taut and Cormac McCarthyesque yet simultaneously superfluous and overly affected. Throughout the novel Olmstead made myriad awkward and unsuitable word choices as if he were a college student writing an essay while mining a thesaurus. Wait, why are the stars of a bright Milky Way pallid? You ...more
Mar 05, 2012 Bert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bloody hell. A haunting, gruesome western in which you are drawn into this aging cavalry officer's world of death, death and horses, death and the barren earth, arrogant youth getting themselves killed - he is a man traumatised by atrocity and haunted by death. Stark, finely-honed writing, a beautifully corny drawl, some truly horrific passages, and a narrative that seems to reside between two worlds, twisting from reality to dream, from the living to the dead, and maybe back to the living..
Nathan Henrion
Jul 08, 2010 Nathan Henrion rated it it was amazing
After reading through an author's catalog, you sometimes feel disheartened, that you will struggle to find another writer with the same feel and flavor. I felt that way with Cormac McCarthy. Thank God I discovered Robert Olmstead. It isn't imitation, it stands on it's own. Olmstead is the real deal.

If you loved Blood WILL love this book. I say without reservation that Far Bright Star will definitely go on the short list of books that I will read over and over again.
Jul 11, 2009 Joni rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite quotations from the book:

"He knew there would be more war because he knew by law of nature men would to war. All the young men were on fire to cross the ocean and fight. Like little boys, they would have it and the old men would let them have it and it would turn out widows and orphans and heartbroken mothers. They would weep and moan for their husbands, fathers and lovers. After the war was before the war."
Aug 04, 2009 Nancy rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The year is 1916 and US Army is in Mexico, in pursuit of Pancho Villa and his bandits. Napoleon Childs is a veteran cavalryman who has always lived his life in the present. One day, he leads a small band out on routine patrol, but they ride into a murderous trap. With haunting and lyrical prose (I know it’s cliché, but it’s true), Olmstead takes us into the mind of Napoleon as he searches for the significance of life and death, men and horses, war and nature.
Jul 24, 2009 elena rated it it was amazing
It turns out that I hate most of Ernest Hemingway's books, but before I ever read any of them, this is what I thought Hemingway would be like - terse, unforgiving, rich language that perfectly captures a moment in time. FBS takes place on the eve of WWI during the hunt for Pancho Villa, events that inform the plot without actually entering into the book all that much.
Jun 10, 2009 Chauncey rated it really liked it

An old lesson about men and war, renewed with a terrible beauty.
Jan 17, 2017 Amanda rated it liked it
Meh. Lots of blood and gore without enough substance. While I enjoyed the history, there was little character development or overall girth to the storyline.
Nhu Khue
Oct 13, 2016 Nhu Khue rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Mình vơ vội cuốn này trong một lần tìm một ebook khác trên mạng nhưng tìm không ra, lại nghe bảo sách đang được dựng thành phim nên mới đọc.
Sách về chiến tranh mà dưới 300 trang thì ngoài chuyện bi thương, tàn bạo đậm vị chiến tranh để lấy sự buồn nôn và nước mắt người đọc ra thì có gì? Mình rất nghi ngờ về chuyện ấy. Sự tàn ác của chiến tranh quá là hiển nhiên, phải cần nhiều hơn thếchứ.
Đoạn đầu chuyện rất chán và lan man như ngắm cảnh, đoạn sau thì khựng lại với máu me ác liệt, cực tả các cá
Mar 26, 2013 Tara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
Far Bright Star, a loosely linked sequel to Olmstead's Civil War/coming of age classic, Coal Black Horse, is every bit as engaging and beautifully written as its predecessor. At the conclusion of Coal Black Horse, the book's young protagonist, Robey Childs, marries and fathers two strapping sons: Napoleon and Xenophon. Far Bright Star reacquaints the reader with these two brothers, now aging adults, as they engage in a new military venture: they're members of a cavalry unit that has been sent in ...more
Feb 22, 2014 Matthew rated it really liked it
Far Bright Star is an exceptionally well-written and compelling story, and I almost gave it a 5-star rating. The only drawback for me is that it consists almost entirely of description, and my personal preference is (has always been) for more dialogue and less description. That said, author Robert Olmstead’s powers of description are truly unparalleled and captivating.

Far Bright Star follows a squad of US Cavalrymen hunting for Pancho Villa in Mexico in 1916. The book’s protagonist, squad leader
Aug 04, 2016 Kallie rated it really liked it
I'm curious to see what people think of Far Bright Star. I have an M.A. in Southwest Studies, which required a lot of reading about Mexico, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Southern Utah and Colorado. Tis book tells it like it was. Forget romanticized, sanitized Hollywood fare that made heroes of main characters. This is the real deal. The Southwest and Mexico/New Mexico (part of the Southwest before the war with Mexico), were inconceivably brutal and violent. I find the main character, Napoleon, ve ...more
Jun 21, 2009 Heather rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 05, 2012 Gordon rated it really liked it
Shelves: school
This is the second in a planned trilogy about the effects of war on men of honor and courage. It is not a happy book. It's central character, Napoleon, is a twin. He and his brother are aging horsemen in the army that has carried American justice around the world. He refers to his presence in the Philippines, the Indian Wars, and other conflicts that the US has indulged in over his twenty year hitch. Now in 1916, poised on the coming of World War I and the obsolescence of his trade, he makes one ...more
Ben Gascoigne
Sep 13, 2016 Ben Gascoigne rated it really liked it
Epic. Brutal. An amazing ride into Mexico and into the mind of a man so close to dead but so far from it.
Peter Derk
Feb 02, 2012 Peter Derk rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
A great, short western.

It's an unbelievable stroke of luck to be living when both Robert Olmstead and Cormac McCarthy are writing. To get one writer of these sorts of minimal, violent, pretty books would be a pretty decent stroke of luck. So to have two is almost more luck than anyone really deserves.

What I love about this book is that it's a western, but it defies what I consider the traditional stereotypes of westerns. For the most part, I've read westerns that are long and literary, and weste
Darryl Mexic
Jan 24, 2011 Darryl Mexic rated it it was ok
Far Bright Star by Robert Olmstead ** Fiction. It is 1916 and among the horse soldiers, the last of a dying breed in New Mexico tasked with hunting down Poncho Villa for his raids into that state, are brothers Napoleon and Xenophon, two tough as nails veterans; one a trainer of men and the other a trainer of horses. Napoleon is on a training mission with five others, including one Preston, a wealthy troublemaker out for adventure. They run into what can only be described as a private army bent o ...more
Matt Lee Sharp
Jun 27, 2014 Matt Lee Sharp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was almost a 5 star book for me. I feel like this story is told pretty succinctly, which I appreciate. I feel like this is maybe the best book I have read this year at creating something visual with language. The images of men glowing blue in the electricity of a thunderstorm, of a man resting small and forgotten in the sands of a long dead ocean, and of a patrol coming across and treating cavalierly a body blistered and stripped of skin upside-down and unrecognizable are all haunting and h ...more
Matt Middlebrook
Feb 02, 2011 Matt Middlebrook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Green Apple Books keeps their perfect record with great staff recommendations. I stepped into the bookstore a couple weeks ago and saw this book on their recommended shelf and took it home. I love westerns, and I particularly like the time and setting of this book (similar to my favorite movie "The Wild Bunch") where the characters are right on the cusp of history changing. The book is set in 1916 and the main characters are soldier/cowboys searching for Pancho Villa. So they are true cowboys, o ...more
Jun 18, 2013 Mary rated it it was amazing
Some have said this is a "guy's book", a description so lacking it is almost comical. Far Bright Star by Robert Olmstead is a short novel set in the southwest desert, and follows the disasterous mission of an expedition of cavalrymen to hunt down Pancho Villa. Napoleon, the leader, is a seasoned horse soldier, and nearing the end of his career. He leads his young and untested soldiers across a brutal landscape to a certain death. That they are unaware of the futility of this mission and Napoleon ...more
Oct 12, 2009 Carmen rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Robert Olmstead (born January 3, 1954) is an award-winning American novelist and educator.

Olmstead was born in 1954 in Westmoreland, New Hampshire. He grew up on a farm. After high school, he enrolled at Davidson College with a football scholarship, but left school after three semesters in which he compiled a poor academic record. He later attended Syracuse University, where he studied with Raymon
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“this cat-and-mouse could not last forever, and he also knew that when you are the mouse you don't have much to say about it to the cat.” 1 likes
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