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Matthew William Frend's Life Before Death is a book of two halves for me, one half of which I enjoyed, the other not so much. I thought the author's remit was too ambitious but then, had he chosen to write two separate books, would I have wanted to read the second one and would I have missed out? The majority of the book follows a group of four young Australians in the 1990s who, frustrated by government policies restricting their chosen lifestyle, decide to plant a cannabis farm in the outback. Their road trip to the chosen site, the narrow escapes from both the weather and the authorities and what they do while waiting at a 'safe' distance for harvest-time all make exciting, informative and dramatic reading. The suspense the author builds is incredible and the detailed descriptions of the Red Centre and the wilds of the Northern Territory are amazing, as they're based on the personal experiences of the author when he lived in Oz himself. However, I suppose a story about a group living, sometimes only just surviving, on the edge of 'normal' society, a counterculture, has to go into their reasoning and motivation, their search for the meaning of life. There are surreal descriptions of the mind expansion that takes place when using drugs and experiences that border on the paranormal. The lessons the reader should surely take from this book are to try to live in the moment, be mindful of your surroundings, to truly live before you die, though I doubt that you need drugs to do all that.