A heavyweight entry into the booming fictional-scholarship market that traffics in Bermuda Triangles, gods from outer space, pyramid power, and the like. The game is fill-in-the-gaps: where professional knowledge stops and mysteries persist, the fearless rush in with literal-minded, all-embracing explanations. Religion and myth once held sway in this realm, but since their apparent rout by scientific method, enterprising speculators have been producing skeleton keys to unlock the ancient teachings' true sense. Sitchin, a zealous private investigator into man's origins, plays the game splendidly, making von Daniken look like a piker. A clever writer, he's mastered the pretenses of scholarship: a crush of evidential texts and pictures, obscure German sources, translating coups, maps, charts, complex calculations, arcane information, etc. His domain is the ancient Near East, the cradle of civilization, and he claims to prove that Homo sapiens was created there by ancient astronauts who first rocketed to earth 445,000 years ago from a twelfth planet, which orbits into our universe every 3600 years. The Old Testament and other Near Eastern texts provide the detailed codes for discovering how our universe was constituted and how these ""gods of Heaven and Earth,"" emissaries of the twelve planet-gods, recurrently visited earth and caused such sudden bursts of advanced civilization as Sumer. As preterite science fiction, it's a dazzling performance.