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Customer Review

on 21 July 2010
Although Quanah Parker doesn't really come into his own until the last 40 pages, Empire of the Summer Moon is a fascinating compendium of everybody's sins - from the bloodthirsty hunter-gatherers to the incompetent armed forces and xenophobic, hypocritical settlers in between.

From time to time, we in the 21st century need to be reminded that buffalo roamed the endless plains, in herds seventy miles long and five miles wide, That tribes of natives lived off them and commanded huge tracts of land - as any self respecting hunter-gatherer from bald eagle to mountain lion must to survive. That everyone was brutal, thoughtless and cruel comes with the territory. The totality of this makes the book continually compelling.

What I liked best was that over the course of 250 pages, I got used to the idea of the endless plains (a few thousand Comanches unfathomably controlling more than 120 million acres), the criminally brutal weather, and constant movement of people, to fight and to survive. And then in one brief sentence, not highlighted or separated, Gwynne takes it all away again:

"Within a few years, barbed wire would stretch the length and breadth of the plains" (p. 276)

It put everything in perspective, and made the decline and fall of the Comanche bands all that more inevitable, necessary, and tragic.

Extraordinarily well documented, well written and well laid out, this is a fine read.
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