#BookReview: The Moonshine Messiah by Russell W. Johnson

Complex Almost Anti-Hero Leads Layered World Into Promising New Series. This is one of those books that touches on a lot of things – the opioid epidemic, the crash of coal in the push for so-called “green” energy, land speculation, family, the complexities of being on the right side of the “law” when your family isn’t, high school romance and the fallout thereof, traditional Southern living vs the newer get-rich-quick ethos… and even a strong dash of the militia movement and the mistakes on both sides of Ruby Ridge and Waco and the long shadows both of those events cast in certain communities. In the process, it creates a truly layered and compelling world that while just as complex as our own, still allows for a high degree of escapism (for most). And yet, it is also a brutal tale of survival and betrayal, of losing yourself and finding yourself over and over and over again. Of trying to become something you want to be, even as your community and even family are doing their damndest to drag you in other directions. Overall truly a remarkable tale for what it is, and one I am very much looking forward to coming back into this world. Very much recommended.

This review of The Moonshine Messiah by Russell W. Johnson was originally written on May 9, 2023.

#BookReview: Drug Use For Grownups by Carl Hart

Interesting Perspective Marred By Bias And Lack Of Scholarly Rigor. Let me state up front: I am a former Libertarian Party official at the State and local level, and an avowed anarchist to boot. I fully concur with Dr. Hart’s position that all drugs should be fully decriminalized. And it was this agreement that had me initially wanting to rate this book at a full 5*.

But considering the actual arguments and the actual text presented, I cannot claim to be an objective judge of the merits of the books I’m reading if I did that. Because there are definite problems with this book that I’ve called out in no uncertain terms when I *didn’t* agree with the author’s positions – and thus I cannot ignore them here, when I do largely agree with the author’s positions.

Specifically, there is quite a bit of anti-white “they’re all just a bunch of racist pieces of shit” strawmen commentary in this text. Numerous cases where Hart blames racism rather than applying Hanlon’s Razor or even looking for alternative, non-race based reasonings for his opponents’ positions. And having been on both sides of this debate at different times in my life, I can testify as a fellow Son of the South (rural exurbs outside Atlanta vs Hart’s coming of age in urban Miami) that there *are* several other rationales other than the racism Hart claims is at the heart of all anti-drug laws.

Further, barely 12% of this text is bibliography, despite Hart claiming numerous times “I know I’m going to have to present some evidence here since this is not a commonly held position”. More often than not, rather than actually examining studies showing various harms from various substances, Hart dismisses them with the hand wave of a professor more concerned with getting his own point across, “there is no basis for that claim, we’re moving on”.

I actually enjoyed the less formal tone of the presentation here, as it made the book overall far more readable than some academics make their narratives. I simply wish the narrative were more substantive.


This review of Drug Use For Grownups by Carl Hart was originally written on June 18, 2021.

#BookReview: An Anatomy of Pain by Abdul-Ghaaliq Lalkhen

More Memoir Than Hard Science. This was a memoir-based look at the field a man has made his career in, what the science he uses is, his thoughts on his field and his practice, and ultimately a bit of a guide on the general issues of the topic at hand. For what it is, it is very well written and easily readable. But those looking for a more “hard science”, heavily referenced examination of the topic… won’t find that here. But from a perspective of “I’ve been in this field for decades, and here is what the field is, what I’ve done in it, and where I think it should go”… yep, this book is exactly that, and a very good general overview of the field from that perspective. Very much recommended.

This review of An Anatomy of Pain by Abdul-Ghaaliq Lalkhen was originally written on October 15, 2020.