Mud City Press

Book Reviews

Mud City Press is, in part, a literary endeavor. Along with our essays on environmental matters, short stories, and novels, we offer reviews of books old and new. Our literary editor is a salty, iconoclastic fellow who sails the Seas of Read with a wary eye for the meaningful and profound. Below are his thoughts on books he feels are worth a look or, perhaps, a revisiting.

Table of Contents

HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence
Michael Pollan's latest book, HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND, reopens the discussion of psychedelic drugs, including commentary on Pollan's own experiences with mushrooms, LSD, and DMT. Dan Armstrong reviews this fascinating book by one of the world's most respected science writers.
Ursula Le Guin wrote many noteworthy pieces of science fiction, but this one is her masterpiece.
Listen to audio file: Dan Armstrong, owner and webmaster of Mud City Press, talks with Ken Babbs, Merry Pranster and author, about his new book CRONIES: Adventures with Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, the Merry Pranksters, and the Greatful Dead.
RESURRECTION ROAD is Clark Hays' and Kathleen McFall's first installment in their rolicking ride with Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
EPIPHANY'S GIFT is the first book in Mallory M. O'Conner's new psychic/cli-fi series, featuring Epiphany Mayall, a feisty psychic sleuth with courage, daring, and smarts reminiscent of Murder She Wrote's Jessica Fletcher–but aided by remote viewing, visionary dreams, and a team of spiritual guides.
Frederick L. Kirschenmann's recently published collection of essays, CULTIVATING AN ECOLOGICAL CONSCIENCE, with its clear concern for the part petroleum plays in modern agriculture, offers significant common ground for farmers and carbon-footprint conscious, twenty-first century environmentalists. This alone would make Kirschenmann's book important, but it also does such a thorough job of describing the current state of agriculture, it would be difficult to find a more comprehensive compilation of essays on the subject.
Half wizard and half scientist, Harry MacCormack weaves together sources as diverse as the teachings of Native American elders, the interpretation of the Mayan Calendar, the work of Rudolph Steiner, and data from NASA's fifty years of space exploration and places them into a single context–seeking resonance with these cosmic cycles in a way that both advances personal self-realization and allows insight into the optimization of agricultural processes on planet earth.
THE TRANSITION DOCUMENT: Toward a Biologically Resilient Agriculture
Harry MacCormack has written an important book about the most crucial task of our time–the transition from conventional agriculture to organic farming practices.
Dale Allen Pfeiffer adds a disturbing corollary to the thesis of peak oil.
Norman Mailer uses a masterful psychological portrait of Lee Harvey Oswald to re-visit Dealey Plaza, November 22, 1963.
William Kötke takes a clear clean look at rebuilding after the collapse of empire.
THE FLESH OF YOUR FUTURE STICKS BETWEEN MY TEETH: Stories from the Gristle Cli-Fi Parody Contest
The seed for this book was planted when author John Michael Greer learned that Grist Magazine had launched a climate fiction contest. On a lark, Greer entered the contest with a story that followed the letter of its guidelines while gleefully violating their spirit.
AN INCONVENIENT APOCALYPSE: Environmental Collapse, Climate Crisis, and the Fate of Humanity
"The goal of AN INCONVENIENT APOCALYPSE isn't to try to convince people of the reality of humankind's environmental and societal crises. The book's authors know that's a fool's errand, given the powerlessness of facts alone to change minds."
POWER: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival
Frank Kaminski reviews Richard Heinberg's new book POWER.
BOTANICAL TREASURES: Multi-use Plants for Renewable Resources and a Nature-based Economy
"This lively reference by veteran permaculture designer and eco-forester Joshua Smith looks at a variety remarkable plant species. In the process, it offers great insights and practical advice for those striving to embrace sustainable, nature-based ways of living–and to liberate themselves from the pernicious, ailing technosphere that dictates life for most people in the industrial world. The blessings that these plants could confer on future human and ecological well-being are legion, and Smith covers them comprehensively and engagingly."
Frank Kaminski has been a steady contributor to Mud City Press. All of his his non-fiction book and documentary reviews are archived here. Kaminski's fiction and film reviews are archived here. And Kaminski's reviews of books written or edited by John Michael Greer are archived here.
Frank Kaminski reviews the Peacock Original miniseries LAST LIGHT, based on Alex Scarrow's novel by the same name.
"Emmanuel Cappellin is a fine filmmaker," writes Frank Kaminski, "an eager student of ecology and a fervent environmental activist. ONCE YOU KNOW is his first feature-length documentary, and it's a stunning debut."
THE BLACK TEARS OF THE SEA: The Lethal Legacy of Wrecks
"A little-known menace lurks beneath the sea. In oceans around the world, thousands of sunken World War II vessels litter the seafloor, their fuel tanks rusting away and either actively leaking or poised to leak their contents into the environment," writes Frank Kaminski in the opening of his review of the German TV documentary THE BLACK TEARS OF THE SEA.
BREAKING BOUNDARIES: The Science of Our Planet
"BREAKING BOUNDARIES," writes Frank Kaminski, "is a well-intentioned but ill-conceived documentary about the ecological destruction currently being wrought by industrial humanity."
MY OCTOPUS TEACHER is both a gorgeous wildlife documentary and a moving tale of how a man in crisis found joy and purpose through his immersion in nature and a remarkable relationship with an octopus.
ANNIHILATION, a movie based on the novel Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, is at once a nuanced exploration of trauma and identity, a surreal excursion into high-concept cosmic horror and an endlessly rich subject for intellectual debate.
80° North: Sailing on Top of the World
The docuseries 80° NORTH is part sailing adventure, part beautifully photographed travelogue and part eyewitness account of the environmental threats faced by the Arctic.
THE LAST WINTER is an eco-supernatural horror film about oil workers in the Arctic who are stalked by a vengeful spirit determined to keep them from exploiting the oil.
SNOWPIERCER, reviewed by Frank Kaminski, is a searing satire, a smart action epic and a cautionary tale about the folly of trying to solve crises caused by human technology with ever-greater applications of human technology.
"When the medical thriller movie Contagion came out in 2011," writes Frank Kaminski, "it was widely praised for its realistic portrayal of a global pandemic scenario. In recent weeks, as the real-life outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has spread around the world, there's been a surge of renewed interest in the film."
THE EARTHING MOVIE: The Remarkable Science of Grounding
Immersion in nature has a wide range of human health benefits. It has been found to do amazing things for our mood as well as our nervous, endocrine and immune systems. But as with anything, it's important to bring a critical eye to claims made about nature's healing powers, as some of these claims have been known to stray into the absurd.
"Of all the documentaries that have been made about the dangers of plastic," writes Frank Kaminski, "the one that has stuck with me the most is Plastic Planet."
DisemPOWERed: Puerto Rico's Perfect Storm
Hurricane Maria's takedown of the Puerto Rican power grid in September 2017 brought modern life to a standstill across the island. Many regions remained without electricity for months, and some for nearly a year. Over that period more than 3,000 people died from lack of access to basic necessities. There was, however, one notable haven from the widespread mayhem, a place in the town of Adjuntas called Casa Pueblo, which for the past 20 years has been powered completely by solar energy.
"By raising sea temperatures, climate change is eradicating the world's coral. Because coral reefs provide sustenance and protection to vast numbers of humans and marine organisms," writes reviewer Kaminski, "it would be a big deal for them to go extinct." A very big deal.
Frank Kaminski reviews Adolfo Doring's documentary BLIND SPOT and Josh Tickell's documentary FUEL.
This documentary, writes reviewer Frank Kaminski, "is presented from an uncommon and intriguing point of view, that of an avid paddleboard athlete and outdoorsman named Norm Hann. In the spring of 2010, Hann traveled 400 kilometers along the B.C. coastline on his stand-up board, tracing a proposed tanker route from Kitimat to Bella Bella."
Frank Kaminski reviews Jeff Orlowski's documentary film on the work of photographer James Balog. Balog's still photos and time-lapse photos of melting Arctic ice serve as sure proof of climate change and what it's doing to our planet.
INTO ETERNITY: A Film for the Future
"There's a growing sense that we modern-day humans are morally obligated to protect our descendants from the hazards of our nuclear waste," writes Frank Kaminski to set up his review of this Finnish documentary. "Yet the task of providing this protection may be a fool's errand. The most obvious way of doing it, which is to leave some sort of warning, could prove completely ineffectual and could even backfire."
"So the other night I was browsing Netflix's instant view collection for a good, recent zombie movie with which to satiate my doomerish craving for mass societal mayhem and collapse," writes reviewer Frank Kaminski, "when I came upon a film called STATE OF EMERGENCY. My advice to you is that if in coming days you find yourself doing the same thing, don't make the same mistake. The film is egregiously clich├ęd, foolishly plotted and wildly unbelievable–in short, it's a reanimated turkey of a zombie movie."
MOTHER: Caring for Seven Billion
"Christophe Fauchere's documentary film MOTHER: CARING FOR SEVEN BILLION," writes reviewer Frank Kaminski, "takes a penetrating look at overpopulation, what fuels it and why the world has become complacent about the issue after making a good start in addressing it during the late 60s. The film dispels some key myths about overpopulation–chief among them the belief that it's long been solved–even if it stops short of admitting the inevitability of a world population crash as the Earth's resources deplete."
ADAM AND I: One Real-life Aspie's Personal Response to the Movie Adam
If you haven't heard of Asperger's syndrome, then you need to read this movie review. If you have heard of Asperger's syndrome, than you also need to read this review. The point being–everyone should read this review!
T.S. Bennett and Sally Erickson's documentary "What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire" is a grim and emotional view of our world through the lens of peak oil, climate change, and population overshoot.