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Book Review: '10 Billion Days And 100 Billion Nights'

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

And I'm Lynn Neary. Most people's idea of Japanese science fiction begins and ends with Godzilla, the 1950s nuclear-spawned creature from the deep. But perhaps the greatest Japanese science-fiction novel of all time, first published in 1967, is now available in an English translation. It's called "Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights" by Ryu Mitsuse. Alan Cheuse has our review.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: "Ten Billion Days and A Hundred Billion Nights," that's a lot of time, but Ryu Mitsuse covers all of it in under 300 pages, and the result is quite fabulous. The novel ranges from the creation of our planet and universe all the way to its near-death from entropy, the end of all heat in the universe, plus the characters. Mitsuse doesn't mess around. First comes Plato and then a universal goddess named Asura and then Siddartha, the Buddha, and Jesus of Nazareth.

We follow them through history, which then explodes into a super-historical battle for the universe and a series of amazing shootouts with the goddess and Plato and Siddartha on one side and Jesus on the other. It's all a kind of magical mystery tour. We meet the last of the citizens of Atlantis. We visit fantastic cities, watch demonstrations of great powerful inventions and new weapons. And I know this sounds as though the novel is so far out you may not want to try it, but Mitsuse's grasp of science, philosophy and religion lend this swiftly moving narrative a solid base, even though now and then he packs so much information into his sentences that a reader can sometimes feel as stunned as Asura in her one-on-one energy weapon duel with Jesus. "Ten Billion Days and A Hundred Billion Nights," and you can read it all in just a few days.

NEARY: The book is "Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights" by Ryu Mitsuse. Alan Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.