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Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights Kindle Edition
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
As others have said, knowing some basic philosophy (Greek and Buddhist) definitely helps. Go read up on any characters you encounter that you don't know. Also, don't expect this story to actually line up with history. Despite its historical characters, it's still a NOVEL, so suspend your disbelief! It's worth it~
The journey is what it's all about in 10 Billion Days & 100 Billion Nights. Don't be afraid to read and reread and rereread passages. There are a lot of lights, and a lot of colors, and a lot of gadgets, but once you arrive at the destination (which, by the way, is not until the very very end), you will find it to be an inherently intimate and important story. It gets you way down deep in your core (also the commentary at the end by Mamoru Oshii is worth reading, it really makes the crux of the book hit ya hard)
So open it up, hold on, and prepare to sit and think for a long time once you're done!
To try to answer that question Mitsuse has mixed hard science fiction, heavy on cosmology, and the three of humanities great philosophical traditions. And by mixing, I mean pitting against one another in a battle for supremacy and to save humanity from destruction at the hands of some not so benevolent beings. Ten Billion Days and Hundred Billion Nights also covers a tremendous amount of ground starting at the very beginning of the universe to its final death from entropy.
Without going into too much detail, the novel tells a story of an alien influence on the growth and development of humanity, and how it has manifested itself in different religions and philosophies throughout history. These are the parts of the novel in which Mitsuse is at his best. The writing for each time period resembles the religious and philosophical texts of the time, and the science fiction elements of the plot and battle scenes are worked into the story line seamlessly. But the most compelling part of the story for me though was the insights into Buddhism and that outlook compares with the Christian worldview. At times I didn't fully understand what was going on, and at times the constant descriptions of the characters every thought process got to be a bit tedious; but I'm still amazed at how Mitsuse was able to work so much into one science fiction story and still write something compelling.
Ten Billion Days and Hundred Billion Nights was an ambitious undertaking, and I believe the Mitsuse pretty much pulled it off. It assumes quite a lot of prior knowledge about both physics and metaphysics, and it moves so quickly it can sometimes be confusing, but in my opinion it was well worth the effort to read. I very much enjoyed my first foray into Japanese science fiction.