"Carbon Ideologies is a triumph, but it might not be the sort of triumph that Vollmann intended. He might have been aiming for a moral coup, but what he arrived at instead was a conquest of literary form. He has created an artifact, imperfect and incomplete, but formed in and mirroring the strange circumstances of its time and place. Two giant books about the material consequences of our wasteful lives, both hulking as if having metastasised. Each full of sympathetic figures, familiar in their easy rapport, overpopulating the pages. Daunting in its scope, there’s a living mystery which occupies the centre of the project: what was the purpose of all our reckless consumption? It’s a question which Vollmann, his subjects, and presumably his readers, are ultimately unable to answer. In not providing an easy resolution, Vollmann has opted for the genius of negative capability over a false or allegorical sense of completion, however seductive that might be."