Monday, August 25, 2014

Far As The Eye Can See: A Novel by Robert Bausch Comes to Bookstands on November 4, 2014--You Can Preorder it Now!

Far As The Eye Can See: A Novel, by
Robert Bausch. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     A man stands in the midst of boulders and peers out across the terrain. His eye follows the trail stretching out before him, out across the landscape for as far as his eye can see. The vast spaces meet distant mountains, rolling clouds of purples and blues fading into the distance so far that it is difficult to see where the land begins and the sky ends.

     Trying to stay cool in the meager shade of the boulder, sweat soaks his shirt as he considers his lame horse standing next to him. He sees someone far down the path moving in his direction. Whether Indian or soldier, he knows they spell trouble for him. He waits as the other approaches and realizes the fellow is either hiding or sneaking up on him. 

     He pulls out his carbine and climbs the boulder, scouring the landscape, trying to spot the guy. Finally, he sees him wiggling his way among the bushes towards his position. It's an Indian. Carefully, he takes aim and fires.

This is probably similar to Bobby Hale's Evans Repeater,
although, Bobby Hale had a strap on his gun. He also tells
us that this was a brand new model when he bought it.[2]
     We've all heard descriptions of the wide open spaces of the west. Colors so incredible and spaces so vast that it dwarfed all life. Our protagonist in the book, Far As The Eye Can See, feels the wonder of the panorama before him all the while trying to protect himself from the Indian that approaches. But, before we continue with our protagonist, Bobby Hale, let's take a quick look at the synopsis of the book. 

     Bobby Hale tells us he has enlisted as a Union soldier...quite a number of times, collecting enlistment bonuses each time. Of course, each time with a different name. At the end of the Civil War he sets out towards California. Joining a small wagon train he gets as far as Montana. Hale traps for a while, meandering from Montana to Wyoming Territory, and over to the Black Hills of the Dakotas.

The wagon train Bobby Hale accompanies is about
twice as long as this short wagon train. [3]
     He meets settlers on the wagon train, making friends and gaining the acquaintance of some who will be future enemies. Hale is a mountain man for a while, riding with an Indian who becomes his friend. He works as a trapper and hires himself out as a scout to the soldiers at a fort, and he kills Indians. He witnesses and is a part of the violence of the West, both killing and struggling to survive. But in the end, what Hale searches for is a place in the wide-open spaces--a place to live in peace. 

Custer's Last Rally, 1881, by John Mulvany (11' x 20') [4]
     Far as the Eye Can See is not only Bobby Hale's story, it is the story about a place in time. A place for which life must fight if it is to be kept. A place where two people, a white Civil War vet- eran and a mixed-race woman, seek to find the path to their own humanity. Bobby Hale leads the reader (almost like our own personal scout) through his time in Indian country and among battles of the Plains Wars; he leads us to where life is an obsession over race and survival.

     FIRST: Robert Bausch's writing style is eminently readable. Sentences are simple, but not overly plain--no complex structures either, but just an easy-going, straight-forward style that suits the story. Dialog is realistic and not overblown. 

     Nor do we have, here, as I've seen in other western or regional novels, language that is "corrup- ted" in order to give it a unique flavor [i.e. "'nuf said!" (enough said) or "cum un" (come on)]. The writing style evokes an easy-going gait of a horse walking, or perhaps the steady rolling of wagon wheels. I did NOT say boring. Bausch's style literally evokes the wide-open country and pacing of life in the wild places.

     SECOND: Everything Bausch does with this novel fills the pages with realism and an authentic life, bringing the people, places, and time into a believable reality. Even before I got to the author's notes at the end of the book, where Bausch tells us about his efforts at constructing a realistic and authentic period, it was clear that he knew what he was about as he wrote this novel. 

Bobby Hale and Big Tree trapped together for a few years.
Hale ended up breaking even by the time he quit. [6]
     The smells jump off the page, the sounds of battle rang in my ears, the cold of the mountain winters permeated my bones, sweat dripping into the eyes, and skin, baked by the heat of a summer sun. Bausch's detailing of the Evans Repeating Rifle and how it loads is beautiful. Even colloquialisms are well-done; for example, how Bobby Hale asks Ink if she speaks "American," and Ink tells him she speaks "English." 

     THIRD: and for me, the most important part of the book is the major premise of the book and its accompanying themes. Robert Bausch tells a vibrant story about the progress of the way west (in the locations I listed, above) from the time of the Civil War. It is a huge story about not only the migration of peoples from the East, but the complex interaction of the relationships among Indians, Settlers, trappers and traders, local militia, and the Government's agents (Soldiers, scouts, Indian Agents etc.).

     Connected to this third point, is the story of how far, as the title implies, the eye can see. Looking at the title literally, Far as the Eye Can See, simply means that in viewing the expanse of sky and land it seems to go on forever. Here, it also means the kind of seeing we do with our inner eyes--how we perceive the world and other people and situations. Some- times our own vested interests cause us to wear blinders that limit our vision. Consequently, our limited vision may cause us to make harsh judgments of other people based on their skin color or culture. Bobby Hale, for example, thought he saw an Indian brave, but who did he really shoot? Well...not an Indian brave.

     The early vignette of Bobby Hale shooting the Indian makes for a wonderful metaphor for the blindness of the collective racial and cultural stereotyping of the Indian nations by a bur- geoning, mostly white, Amer- ican people. The people of this time could only--as far as their eyes could see--view the Indian as a savage. The beauty of Bausch's book is that he doesn't fall into making the white man or the Indian heroes or villains--he creates his characters simply to be "human beings," fraught with failings as well as strengths.

     What Robert Bausch does, here, in dealing with the clash of the two disparate cultures, is quite elegant. He uses this clash to show us people, not caricatures. Bobby Hale is not the hero we hoped he would be in the opening pages of the book. Bobby Hale looks to survive.

     Even though Hale defrauded the U.S. Government and killed Indians, it turns out his best friend is Big Tree, an Indian. And when he was really needed by two (unnamed) characters he chose to help them, and in doing so, was the hero we longed for earlier in the book. Robert Bausch's writing of Hale (and others) into existence as complex characters doesn't leave the story muddled. We get believable, characters in a realistic setting acting exactly the way real human beings act--making poor decisions in one setting and heroic ones in another. Just beautiful.

     The genre, western, is generally considered acceptable for all reading audiences. However, taken individually, some westerns should not be read by the young or those people sensitive to violence. Such is the case with Far as the Eye Can See. Bausch does a great job keeping swearing out of the book, as he does with explicit sex scenes. A brutal rape occurs in the book, but it is not explicitly shown, only the results.

     Likewise, violence is also in the book, and for a few occasions, quite graphically; this includes some scenes of torture or descriptions of the results of torture or murder. That having been said, I would wholeheartedly approve of mature adults reading this book; the violence contained is not gratuitous, but is incorporated into the story, contributing to it as an integral and necessary part of the whole.

5 star rating out of 5 [8]
     For all the reasons I gave you, above, I rate this book 5 stars out of 5. It is a wonderful read that I enjoyed, immensely. I would recommend this book to the appropriate audience. Today, for the book, Far as the Eye Can See, I'm using 5 cups of coffee, in lieu of stars, in honor of the campfire coffee the characters drank.

     Thank you for joining me, today, as we got an advance look at a wonderful new western novel by Robert Bausch. Due to be released November 4, 2014, you should preorder your copy, now. Please join me next week as I will be reviewing for you Esther Ehrlich's debut novel, Nest. This children's novel looks promising, and I can hardly wait to review it for you. So, until next week when we get to find out about, Nest, read something pleasurable for yourself--have a little fun. God bless you, and take care, my friends.

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [10]
...many happy pages of reading!


[1] "Far As The Eye Can See: A Novel." Retrieved 08-08-14.
[2] "Evans Repeating Rifle." Retrieved 08-24-14.
[3] "Pioneer Wagon Train." Retrieved 08-24-14.
[4] "Custer's Last Rally." [1881-John Mulvany] Retrieved 08-24-14.
[5] "Covered Wagon, Packing and Hitting the Trail." Retrieved 08-24-14.
[6] "Mountain Men Hand Covering." Retrieved 08-24-14.
[7] "Perception Is Half The Battle To Getting Your Life Back On Track." Retrieved 08-25-14.
[8] "The Big Over Easy..." [coffee-cup graphic] Retrieved 08-25-14.
[9] "Robert Bausch: Biography and Personal Information." Retrieved 08-25-14.
[10] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 08-11-14.