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on February 23, 2010
Alexander Beiner has done his homework. And I don't merely imply psychonautic adventures. "Beyond the Basin" brims over with the evidence of extensive readings in the literature of psychedelics, ethnopharmacology, mythology and the philosophy of religion(s). We are skillfully carried on a Borgesian journey from the modern urban landscape to the still wild realms of Amazonia and along the way are made familiar with much of the framework of what Terence McKenna named "The Archaic Revival", a post-60's renaissance in "entheogenic" exploration and research bringing us up into the 21st century. And if you haven't read Jonathan Ott's studious tomes you'll receive an introduction to the ideas of another maverick adventurer as well.
The ideas are carried along on the story of the young urban European protagonist's being directed by his dreams and personal inclinations to a nearly apocalyptic confrontation among himself,an indigenous Amazonian "tribe" and the leader of a group of proselytizing missionaries. Well worth reading. Not for psychonauts only. Anyone interested in the exploration of consciousness, the social implications of "rave culture", or just out for a rollicking ride should be pleased with this first novel and its experimental denouement. Read and enjoy.
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on November 7, 2010
Beyond the Basin is a colorful wonder of a story. It flashes between two lives, that of young Anjuiga, living amid the jungle and her loving family and tribe; and Alex, an aspiring journalist in the London of present times. Carroll-like, one sometimes wonders how Beiner can pull it off without the whole thing devolving into a fairy tale, but he keeps us grounded in the Mission characters of Priest and cohorts. Historically, there is validity in their methods from stories we hear from natives everywhere. In the character of the Shaman we see Casteneda influences, and the author's Irish roots surface in a Joycean romp at a point near the end. The ending itself, dramatic and unexpected, saves the story from being too `Celestine Vision' precious. This novel is definitely to be recommended to anyone who enjoys pondering the edge between science and mysticism.
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on October 21, 2009
The first novel by Alexander Beiner is a story of self-discovery of a
young idealistic journalist. While he accepts a new full-time job and
is sent on an unexpected mission by his magazine, a spiritual conflict
is developing in a remote area of the Amazon rainforest between a
tribe led by a shaman and a Catholic mission. The book is appealing
with its discussions of different plant medicines and realistic
description of the conflicted personality of the main hero, who is
seeking something which he is not exactly sure about. Will he resolve
the spiritual mystery?
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on January 25, 2010
I devoured Beyond the Basin in two days. A captive magical story with a deep archaic, but still urgent message to all of humankind. Alexander has drawn upon the wisdom of the elders of the entheogenic movement and the plant teachers and then mixed this up with some spell binding storytelling. Highly recommended!
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on September 3, 2010
A young journalist travels deep into the Amazon jungle and a young girl stops at nothing to save her friend from the ominous Sky Teacher. Find undiscovered shamanic tribes, experiment with psychedelic medicines, uncover unusual happenings at a Franciscan mission, and much more in Beyond the Basin by Alexander Beiner.

Anjuiga is an 11-year-old native living with her tribe in the rainforest. In secret, she meets with her friend, Ruah, to play at the basin. Ruah retells the Sky Teacher's stories and describes the horror that will befall Anjuiga if she doesn't join him and the other converted villagers at the mission. Anjuiga is terrified after visiting the mission and seeing the Sky Teacher for the first time. She becomes frantic to bring Ruah back to his old life.

Alex Ostritt is a freelance journalist who, along with his friends, uses psychedelic drugs in an attempt at achieving personal growth and higher awareness. Soon after reluctantly accepting a full-time writing job at a magazine, Alex is asked to go to the Amazon to write an important article about a new hotel. For some reason he feels that it is imperative he go on the trip. He travels to the hotel and prepares for his story. While there, he is plagued by strange visions and a desperate need to go to the coast. He doesn't know what he will find there but can't ignore his urge to go, so he sets out on foot through the jungle. He makes the seemingly impossible journey without proper gear, guided by a strange voice that leads him to the mission where he meets the priest who runs it, Father Pearse. Soon Alex's visions begin to make sense--he must find the girl in the forest.

The author brings all the players together in a climatic ending with a series of shocking events. The shamanic tribe holds a celebration that Father Pearse believes he must stop. Ruah and Anjuiga rush to warn the tribe. After meeting the shaman, Alex eats mushrooms and begins a metaphysical, psychedelic, and spiritual trance in which he learns the terrible truth Beyond the Basin.

Alexander Beiner has done extensive research into shamanic tribes and the expansion of Christianity forced on ancient cultures under the guise of rescuing primitives from their ignorance. The kaleidoscopic drug trips are vividly painted from experience and insert a sense of authenticity. Alex Ostritt is a flawed yet complicated, well-drawn protagonist. His conflict with the missionaries over his drug use beliefs and later with Father Pearse kept me intrigued. Anjuiga is young but is an admirable heroine. This is a powerful, thought-provoking story that I won't soon forget. Beiner's description of the jungle was so realistic that I could almost feel the heat and smell the lush greenery. I had one minor problem, however, with the book. I was uncertain at times if Ostritt was still dreaming Anjuiga's narrative, or if she was then a point-of-view character.

Those with a strong stance against drug use, or those unwilling to question religion, may not enjoy this book. I highly recommend Beyond the Basin to those who read with an open mind...prepare to be amazed!

By William Potter for Reader's Choice Book Reviews
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