Review: 10 Billion Days and 100 Billion Nights, by Ryu Mitsuse

>>Published (in Japanese): 1967

>>Published (in English): November 2011

>>Finally got around to it: January 2012

Siddhartha paused, unsure of what to say. In truth, he had no real purpose in coming here. He had jumped onto the spaceway in pursuit of Jesus of Nazareth. Yet he still didn’t know why he even had to fight Jesus. The only thing he knew were those words: “Yellow 17 in the New Galactic Age, the Planetary Development Committee on Astarta 50 received a directive…” and a vague sense that this curious, shielded city was somehow connected to the Kingdom of Atlantis where Orionae claimed to hail from, and to the barren flats and ruined city that Siddhartha had found upon emerging from the sea. There was an overall trend toward destruction and ruin in all that he had seen, and lately Siddhartha had begun to think that some power had placed him here for the sole purpose of investigating that trend and possibly divining its cause and origin.

***

Check it out: Jesus as an energy weapon-wielding badass going up against Plato, the Buddha Siddhartha, and the war-waging demigod Asura, in an endless battle for survival through the cycle of history—from our humble origins to our destruction by the inescapable hand of fate.

What’s not to love, right? I mean Jesus isn’t just Jesus here. He’s the man from Nazareth. He’s Clint Eastwood rocking an end-of-days speech, and he isn’t fucking around.

Somewhat hyperbolically billed as the greatest Japanese science fiction novel of all time, Ryu Mitsuse’s 10 Billion Days and 100 Billion Nights is nothing if not ambitious. In a scant 284 pages, Mitsuse introduces curiosity and conflict in equal measures, documenting the path to spiritual and intellectual enlightenment through the origin of all life, the existence and fall of Atlantis, and the crucifixion of Christ, through to the 3900 A.D. and beyond, all the way to the heat death of the universe.

Mitsuse’s science-meets-spiritualism epic skips through history in giant leaps, as Asura, Siddhartha, and Jesus Christ meet, do battle, and ruminate on their existence—on the purpose behind all existence, and the question of their impending judgement. That’s judgement with a capital J—as in, our days our numbered, decided long before we even had the brains to know right from wrong and up from down. Touching upon certain events with a wide brush allows Mitsuse to cover an expanse few science fiction novels would ever attempt. He employs a predominantly eastern philosophical approach to the events that bring the principle characters in conflict with one another. Though the first few chapters are a bit slow off the mark, the latter half of the book brings the many threads together in intriguing ways that swiftly bridge the scientific and the philosophical.

Two caveats: without at least a passing understanding of the myths and legends surrounding the primary cast of spiritual and philosophical superfriends, it’s likely a lot of the book’s narrative weight will be lost; and if the idea of technologically primed warrior deities doesn’t tickle the hairs on the back of your neck, you might struggle to accept any part of this premise. Those details aside, Mitsuse’s 10 Billion Days and 100 Billion Nights is a fascinating take on the battle between existence and the concepts of fate and pre-determined universal extinction.

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