What we get in this, his first book, is a brilliant portrait of a place and a people, a millennial’s travelogue written with enviable verve and erudition. The title invites comparison with Hunter S. Thompson, as does the rapid-fire prose, the ear for quirky dialogue, the strangeness of a landscape sore and battered ... Wheeler knows when to play the first-person card of the old New Journalism, and he knows when to back off. He’s very good at scene-setting, which makes him very good at history-telling. It’s clear that Wheeler has thought long and hard about the truth and consequences of the past. It goes without saying that the going gets weird at times ... Wheeler is inventive in his jumping-off points, taking up topics that become doors to something else without hitch or hiccup ... The author carried me along with his eye and his prose, carried me to the people, the places, the sunlight, the history, the pain, the crimes, the oddities, and the grace ... Joshua Wheeler has written a book worth reading more than once, a book that makes me very much want to read his next one.
Joshua Wheeler detours around them all in favor of his native southern New Mexico in the engagingly chatty and seriocomic Acid West ... Wheeler is determined to put 'SNM' on the map on new terms that don't play to stereotypes ... Wheeler is the inheritor of a conflict that's defined the last few generations of American essay writers — they're supposed to speak their passions but also keep their emotions at a distance. It's a hard balance to maintain, and sometimes Wheeler drifts toward glibness or callousness.
Mr. Wheeler does not seem especially charmed by the strangeness of his corner of the country...the essays in Acid West feel oppressed by the unresolved childhood resentments of a native. The cynicism and verbosity of the writing—some of the footnotes are nearly as long as the essays themselves—suggest an author trying to work out personal issues on the page. The material is rich but Mr. Wheeler hasn’t yet found his way on the level of craft. Excess is one thing the desert doesn’t abide.