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Far Bright Star

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  385 ratings  ·  116 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
ebook, 207 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (first published January 1st 2009)
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Steve
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
Brian
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
...more
Terra
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.
Laura
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
...more
Bill Krieger
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!

QOTD
"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
...more
Charisse
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
...more
Melinda
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
Matt Lee Sharp
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
Matthew
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
...more
Roberto
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
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 Meridian...you 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.
Nancy
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.
Joni
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."
elena
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.
Jill
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.
Peter Reiner
This is a tough book to read, because the main character, Napoleon Childs, an aging calvaryman from the U.S. Army, leads a group of men in Mexico to hunt Pancho Villa and he's a difficult person to understand. Things go terribly wrong as his inexperienced troopers try to do battle in Mexico and most of his men are killed. He is treated horribly by his Mexican captors, which breaks his spirit and body. The difficulty in reading the book is because of the torture that he witnesses and endures hims ...more
Chauncey

An old lesson about men and war, renewed with a terrible beauty.
Tara
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
Darryl Mexic
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
Gordon
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
Mary
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
Carmen
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Matt Middlebrook
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
Peter Derk
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
...more
Heather
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Ben
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
Amy
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Scottsdale Public Library
"Far Bright Star" grabs you by the scruff of the neck and doesn't let go until the journeys' end. It reminds me of those classic western movies like "The Magnificent Seven", Clint Eastwood's spaghetti westerns or “The Unforgiven”. The writing is stark and realistic. You can almost feel the hot sun bearing down and desert grit in your mouth. It is 1916 and a veteran of battles, Napoleon must lead a rag tag band of soldiers. “They are a sorry lot -- "freebooters, felons, Christians, drifters, patr ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
"Described by the Dallas Morning News as a ""thinking-reader's western,"" Olmstead's latest novel, which features some characters from Coal Black Horse, is not for the faint of heart. Still, critics were riveted by this gruesome, bloodcurdling, and thoroughly masculine book, where women are virtually nonexistent and war is a constant, prevailing theme. Critics hailed Far Bright Star as a tightly woven tale with terse, dispassionate prose, characteristics that may also be used to describe the lac ...more
Harry
Incredible descriptions of the desert and the men in the detachment of the US Cavalry as they are hunted down by a group of Mexicans seeking revenge for the treatment of a girl by one of the troopers and the subsequent slaughter of all but one of the troopers, makes this an entertaining read.
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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
...more
More about Robert Olmstead...
Coal Black Horse The Coldest Night Trail of Hearts Blood Wherever We Go: A Novel River Dogs: Stories Stay Here with Me: A Memoir

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