Author Takahiro Ueda has earned a reputation for breaking the normal conventions of fiction, and in this work he trains his sights on 100,000 years of human history. The first-person narrator addresses both other characters and the reader as “you humans,” creating the impression of a being that transcends humankind. He is repeatedly reborn over the ages, appearing first as a Cro-Magnon of the Upper Paleolithic period, next as a Jew named Heinrich Kepler who dies in a Nazi death camp, and then as a Japanese man named Yūsuke Inoue who works for an IT company in Tokyo and turns 35 in 2014. Fully aware of the cycle of reincarnation, he knows human events of the past as well as what is destined to take place in the future, and across the millennia he has been picturing in his heart his one true love. His chance to be united with that person finally arrives when he is Yūsuke Inoue: he meets a beautiful Australian woman named Caroline Hopkins, 32, and believes she is the one he has been dreaming of for so long.
Without revealing how she may feel about Inoue, Hopkins tells him that her visit to Japan represents the final destination of an unusual journey to trace the history of the human race?a journey started by the late Dr. Yōhei Takahashi (whose cousin Kazuya Takahashi had introduced Inoue to Hopkins) and joined by Hopkins along the way; the journey was supposed to end in Japan because it was the country where two atomic bombs had been dropped. When the 37-year-old doctor was told he had only six months to live, he had immediately set out on a rambling trip around the world, which he had dubbed “The Stymied History of the Human Race.” Beginning in Central Africa where modern humans originated, he traveled to the endpoints of the various branches of the human tree, and it was when he reached Australia to visit the Aborigines that he met Hopkins and she joined him on his travels. They went together from there to Lisbon to begin the second phase of the journey, in which they visited historic points from the Age of Discovery. Then they narrowed their focus to the United States and Germany as the most important powers of the two World Wars of the 20th century, and visited the site of the Dachau concentration camp. There, in the same place that the narrator went to his death as Heinrich Kepler, Takahashi’s time had run out. Before dying, he asked Hopkins to go on to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in his stead, to complete the journey.
Midway through the novel, Takahashi declares that humanity has entered its “third circuit.” The “first circuit” was the period when early modern humans spread across the globe, represented by the first phase of Takahashi’s journey, and the “second circuit” was the subsequent reunification of all peoples in a highly efficient world order of trade and intercourse, represented by the Age of Discovery portion of his journey. The IT revolution of the late 20th century commenced the third circuit, the culmination of which remains uncertain; Takahashi believes it will involve artificial intelligence in a central way.
Seeing how committed Hopkins remains to Takahashi and his quest to trace the history of humanity, Inoue is unable to reveal his own feelings for the woman he believes is his one true love, and the story comes to a close with both the future of the relationship and the future direction of the journey Hopkins has taken on from Takahashi still in question. But through the unusual premise of this highly ambitious work, author Takahiro Ueda brings a distinctive new perspective to the history of humankind, and at the same time speculates on what the future may hold for the race as well.