In Japanese author Takano’s Genocide of One, a new life form threatens humankind.

How long have you been working on this thriller?

When I was around 20, I read a book that raised the question of whether the evolution of Homo sapiens might not be over yet. That was the starting point. For over two decades, I kept thinking about how to make this into a compelling story. As I researched, I was overwhelmed by how dedicated and hard-working scientists are, and by the spectacular advances in molecular biology. And the more I learned about the fundamentals of science, the more amazed I was at the question of why a collection of matter came to have consciousness and thought. We’re just made up of matter, so how is it we can do things such as write books and read?

How did your film studies shape your novel writing?

The techniques I studied in filming and editing films were extremely helpful when it came to writing a novel. In film production, the director and cinematographer adjust lighting and color tone to fit the story they want to tell. In much the same way, when I write novels, word choice helps me set the tone of the story. The ordinary words we use have all sorts of feelings associated with them—some seem warmer, for instance, and some more colorful. Through distinguishing the different feelings inherent in words, I feel I can enhance the overall atmosphere of the story. From film editing, I learned how to make a greater impact on readers through decisions regarding what information to present, and in what order.

How was the story served by having the U.S. president so closely resemble George W. Bush?

The story is set in 2005, when Bush was the most powerful leader, not just in America but in the world, and it seemed to me that his own political and moral limits reflected the limits of human society. However, as I analyzed the image of the president who is portrayed in the story, I reached a conclusion that was surprising, even to me: namely, that he was just an ordinary person. At this point the president in the novel became a figure completely independent from Bush.

The accepted wisdom in the U.S. is that Godzilla and similar films were a way of responding to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Is Genocide of One a response to another Western threat to the Japanese way of life?

No, it isn’t. In the novel, the main Japanese character ends up pursued by American intelligence organizations, but that’s done just to ramp up the suspense. The real menace are the creatures known as human beings.