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.
There is no question Wheeler is smart. He is up to taking on New Mexico’s once grand hopes for success — and their desiccated remains today — on a prominent stage ... But by the rules of assured command of a chosen form, Wheeler’s prolixity sometimes seems the product of someone who doesn’t quite trust himself. So he says more about more, occasionally repeating it for emphasis. He’s that friend at the bar, admittedly astute and entertaining, who a few beers into the evening is manically rafting the endless rapids of his own stream of consciousness ... Acid West aims to make the point that something about the clarity of its air and the view it permits to galaxies beyond ours, or its dry sands, or the people who can take it and make it there, clarifies something both simple and complex about America: it’s messed up. But in some really interesting ways. Let Joshua Wheeler show you just how much.