Author Ryu Mitsuse
Things You Might Like
- Plato is written as pretty likable
- Interesting concept of the future of humanity
- Mystery abounds
- Plenty to work out for yourself
Things You Might Not Like
- Plenty to work out for yourself
- “Interesting” concept of the future of humanity
- Really, really bloody weird
- Treads the line between dense and unreadable
Ryu Mitsuse’s 10 Billion Days & 100 Billion Nights is a super-weird and an example of high sci-fi. Only read if you’re willing to work.
3 out of 5 Cryo-Sleeping Prophets
What do Jesus, Siddhartha Gautama, and Plato have in common? If your answer is ‘They happen to be time-traveling representatives of an ineffable power that may or may not be responsible for dark energy,’ then you’ve got a lot in common with the author of 10 Billion Days & 100 Billion Nights, and may I humbly suggest that you go on a very lengthy vacation.
It’s a rare occurrence that leaves me scratching my head the entire time I read a novel, and this book happens to be one of those times. Now, let me clarify that: It’s a good scratch-your-head. The artistic, writerly kind that’s—thank God—not obnoxious as all Hell.
See, the book’s about something that’s… well… I can only explain it in terms of a video clip from Scanners.
It’s a thinky concept, hinging mostly on mystery. The author attempts to weave Atlantis into the ancient astronaut theory, and from there, brings in such different concepts as dark energy and just a hint of wormhole travel.
Yeah, you could say it’s almost as if the guy with the hair from Ancient Aliens on the History Channel teamed up with Stephen Hawking to write a science fiction novel.
With such an abstract concept (and trust me, if I could distill it into something more concrete than ‘wormholes and dark energy—also religions figures,’ I would), you might be concerned that the novel is a rough read. And, as I mentioned above, you’d be right.
This is some pretty dry sci-fi, even considering all of the laser-y and space-y bits in it. I mean, the book takes place in several different dimensions, several different time periods, and plays around with the established canon of religion and philosophy. It’s biting off a whole lot.
So does it succeed? Does Ryu manage to turn Siddhartha, Plato, Jesus, and what I can only assume is an incarnation of Shiva into protagonists and antagonists, and from there, into characters that drive a plot?
Kind of. I think the problem we’ve got in the novel is that the scope is so massive, and the concepts so far beyond the layman’s knowledge, that it becomes difficult to connect with the characters. Instead of thinking, ‘How are they going to handle this situation?’ you’re thinking about what the hell Ryu means by throwing out all of these weird future-tech terms at you—not to mention the concerns you may have developed about what took place in the space of, oh, three thousand years.
(Not to mention wondering if the mysteries Mitsuse is writing about have been chipped away by astrophysicists in the time since the novel was written. That’s a concern with sci-fi, too. Consider the fact that a lot of 20th Century sci-fi is somewhat laughable by its timeline alone.)
Throwing a curveball at the reader from the get-go is a pretty big gamble. Your narrative has to be weird enough to make sure that the reader gets immersed in the twist, but not so weird that the reader gets distracted by trying to figure out what’s going on.
Take, for example, Dune by Frank Herbert. The time scale is 10,000 years into the future. Humanity’s spread through the galaxy. Yet—yet—Herbert’s characters are relatable. (Probably because of the stunted nature of space travel. Wormholes, there are not.) There’s a lot to be confused about in the Dune universe, but, for the first novel at least, it’s all easy to figure out.
So, I don’t know if it’s because of the unique problems of a Japanese – to – English translation, but this book is massively dense and labyrinthine. It’s not bad. I wouldn’t say that. It’s just purposely anti-readable. Which can be a good thing.
(Man, don’t you hate those times where you’re totally smack dab in the middle of two points of view of the same book? Bloody ambivalence, amirite?!)
To summarize: Dune, this ain’t.
Buy, Rent, or Pirate? Rent. (NOTE: Bullet Reviews does not condone piracy; if you pirate art, then you’ll be stuck in a shelf and watched over by a giant crab god for all eternity.)