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Far Bright Star

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  607 ratings  ·  139 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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3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  607 ratings  ·  139 reviews

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Aug 21, 2009 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
John of Canada
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Cowboys,horses,shoot em up,what's not to like?Olmstead is a very good writer.the history,is very interesting,there are even airplanes.Fans of Cormac McCarthy and William Carlos Blake should find this right up their alley.
Jun 29, 2014 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
Sep 04, 2012 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
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Robert Olmstead's book uses language to weave a spell which made me feel the heat of the Mexican desert. Napoleon Childs, a grizzled career soldier, is part of the U.S. force that chased Pancho Villa through the countryside in 1916 after his raid on Columbus, New Mexico. Although the unit never catches anything beyond rumors of Villa, they do find savagery and brutality. This includes in themselves. Honor was supposedly at stake, that of the U.S. and the force, but Napoleon finds only the death ...more
Bill Krieger
Jun 23, 2011 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
Jun 22, 2009 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 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 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.
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
This was an excellent novel! I really like the books that Mr. Olmstead has written. They are powerful, gutwrenching, and superbly crafted. This focuses on the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico during the first part of the 20th Century in the midst of the Mexican revolution. This is the story of a small group of U.S. Army troopers who have entered into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa. In some respects, Mr. Olmstead outdoes Cormac McCarthy in visceral storytelling.
Mar 18, 2017 added it
Shelves: bookmarks
No rating. This is far too dark, brutal and cruel for me. It might be, or might have been "true life", but I won't subject myself to it willingly.
Dec 07, 2008 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
Mar 02, 2012 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 04, 2010 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 02, 2009 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 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.
Jun 10, 2009 rated it really liked it

An old lesson about men and war, renewed with a terrible beauty.
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"After the war is before the war." - Robert Olmstead

First off, this book was fantastic, though not for the faint of heart. Plenty of other reviews speak to the author's skill and virtuosic execution. Suffice it to say, these are sentiments to which I wholeheartedly subscribe. Despite coming in at a lithe 207 pages, Far Bright Star packs a wallop and in the process, poses a number of difficult questions.

Napoleon and company are implements of a war which seems devoid of object or purpose. What com
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: Robert Olmstead was my professor and mentor in college. This is my favorite of his books. It is the second book in a trilogy (the other two are Coal Black Horse and The Coldest Night). The aspect of this book I enjoyed most was the raw, spare prose. Olmstead can break open powerful emotions with a few words. His narrative depicts brutality and death without flinching but also without being exploitative. It's interesting how he does it. If this were made into a movie, I would be ...more
Jun 02, 2018 rated it did not like it
This is a story of the last horse soldiers and their quest to capture/kill Pancho Villa. It was interesting how they described the attitudes of the men with their horses and the courage of some of their mounts. Also interesting how the author showed that this was a time military/combat changed from soldiers and horses to automatic weapons and vehicles.
I did not like the writing and tired quickly of the author say "and then they...." He spent way to much time describing the injuries and torture,
Mar 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hayduke, shogun
Well written, exciting and brutal story in the McCarthy mode. I liked it but I wanted more and this was barely more than a short story. A good 3 star read.
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great western thriller, set in the Mexican - American borderlands of the early 20th Century. Poncho Villa. Shootouts. Shadows of WWI and the beginnings of mechanized warfare. Fantastic writing.
Douglass w. Cann

Wonderful writing of a time in America, still in its infancy but expanding westward at a lightning pace. Last of the horse soldiers.
Dec 12, 2009 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
Matthew Eisenberg
Feb 22, 2014 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 03, 2016 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
May 08, 2009 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 14, 2012 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
Peter Derk
Jan 24, 2012 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 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
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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
“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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