Narcotic euphoria meets the demands of everyday life in Richard Wirick's brilliant new collection of interlocking stories. Whether depicting a Valium-fogged lawyer representing a car painter who cooked a client in his kiln, or revealing a Gulf War orderly's drift in and out of morphine dreams during an aerial Medevac surgery, Wirick's stories are rich with the social contexts in which sedation's acolytes emerge, come forward to flourish, and then often violently explode or fade away. With a finesse that invigorates and then jars the reader, Wirick maneuvers between narratives of shimmering hallucinations and ecstatic mood-peaks. But Kicking In is not just another drug book. A gut punch to the notion that the drug war stems from society's fringe element, Wirick shines a light on the ways presumably democratic governments use depressants and stimulants to keep selected segments of the population marginalized and disenfranchised. The result is a masterful collection -- a vividly terrifying yet startlingly prosaic consideration of the varieties of drug users' experience with what Coleridge called "the milk of Paradise."