Jonathan Meades at Literary Review:
If I were a shrink, I’d worry about Robert Macfarlane – his dicing with eschatology, his claustrophilia, his recklessness, some of the company he keeps (sewer punks, cavist ultras, grotto mystics). But I’m not: I’m merely a repeatedly delighted fan of a true original. Macfarlane is a poet with the instincts of a thriller writer, an autodidact in botany, mycology, geology and palaeontology, an ambulatory encyclopedia – save that much of the time (a dodgy word in this context) Macfarlane does not ambulate but hauls himself feet first through tunnels the circumference of a child’s bicycle wheel in absolute darkness where day, night, maps and GPS do not exist. That’s when he is not being driven at absurdly high speed through potash mines beneath the North Sea’s shipping lanes by a gung-ho security specialist or lifting a rust-flaked manhole cover to gain admittance to some nether world or trespassing in a government’s subterranean chambers. When this orphic mole comes up for air he relaxes by climbing the transporter bridge high across the Usk at Newport.