TO FIND YOURSELF...DISAPPEAR.
On the evening of high school graduation, an outcast teenager leaves his small country town on a quest to find himself when he comes face to face with an evolutionary roadblock that has derailed most of humanity.
With the help of an eighty-year-old American Indian Zen philosopher, an ex-marine cowboy, a reverend river guide, a Hopi D.J., an Iranian dancer, a ten-year-old Mexican surfer, a hippie pilot, an Italian street artist, a soul brother, a horse, a plane, a raft, a boat, a yacht, the stars, the universe, Mary, Molly and a guy named Frank, he travels halfway around the world on an epic adventure in search of a solution.
A solution that might not only determine his fate but ours.
Beyond the Utmost Bound is a great title, and beyond that? It follows in the great tradition of stories which aim to inspire a deeper understanding of the meaning of life - and there's a lot of potential in that, if it can be dealt with in an intelligent and original way. But there's also a lot of potential to sound corny, and to pretty much say what has been said a hundred times before since mankind discovered spliffs and free love.
The hero is a disaffected teenager from a broken home, who sets out to find out what it's all about. It's reasonably well written and well edited, which is great - so many books aren't - but I just couldn't get into the subject matter or the characters.
One problem, for me, was that the story was overwhelmed by the 'moral', the author's need to have deep conversations occur between characters. They didn't feel like natural conversations that actual people would have (that is, if they weren't locked up in a Philosophy 101 tutorial). They felt, if anything, more like Socratic dialogues, set-ups to allow the author's views free rein. In short, they were too philosophical and didactic to feel real. In the book, people say things like 'Teaching our children to live simply is one of the best gifts we can give them' and 'Every moment is a chance to participate, a chance to learn'. You think, 'yeah, right'.
Another issue for me was the mystic flavour of the book. A lot of people would find the spiritual beliefs discussed in the book inspiring and enlightening, but unfortunately I'm not one of them. Mysteriously wise First Nations grandfathers and complicated interpretations of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling don't really do it for me. But I'm conscious that part of that is just me - I don't enjoy wet new-age philosophy - so I don't want to be unjustly critical.
On the positive side, the author does manage to produce a slightly Hunter S Thompson-ish flavour in some scenes - a kind of whimsicality or magic realism, which is probably partly due to the ingestion of drugs by the main character and his friends. People do and feel weird things when they're high - like standing in the middle of nowhere contemplating a mystic 'Energy' which might or might not have to do with their grandfather's spirit advising them from the grave.
I'd recommend the book to people who enjoy reading inspirational stories based on First Nations spirituality, and who don't mind if a lot of the content sounds a bit like those quotes they used to put on desk diaries. But if you demand a bit more from your parables, and are (as I am) antsy about mystic gurus, out-of-body experiences, spirit guides and desert epiphanies, I'd give this one a miss.
I'm an author but I also read a lot. I do especially like to read books by high quality indie authors, because you often get original and unconventional work which wouldn't have been picked up by the major publishers.