Birthright: The Book of Man
Mike Resnick’s second published book in the Birthright Universe chronicles the sum of humanity’s future history of space exploration, contact with alien races, galactic conquest, and decline as the pre-eminent species across the galaxy. Birthright: The Book of Man (1982) spans thousands of years and is broken up into sections covering different aspects of Man’s empire. The galactic government of Man begins with a Republic and over time changes to Democracy, Oligarchy, Monarchy, and Anarchy. Each section has several chapters (or stories), which illustrates the changing relationship of Man versus the Galaxy.
From “The Cartographers” (the power of those who map the galaxy) to “The Olympians” (a sect of Man demonstrating physical superiority) to “The Priests”, Birthright: The Book of Man taken as a whole is a fascinating set up of a species history and provides the backdrop for Resnick’s later fiction. Much of Resnick’s subsequent novels (Ivory, the Starship series, The Widowmaker, Paradise, etc) take place in the various eras introduced here.
Because I have enjoyed pretty much everything I have read from Resnick and because Resnick has such an easy flow to his writing I have to say that Birthright: The Book of Man is something worth checking out. Less a mosaic novel and more a linked short story collection the use of the short story to explore the changing political situation of humanity in relation to itself and to thousands of alien races, Birthright is an interesting and novel (in the other use of the word) concept, and one which is successful in building a setting in which Resnick can place any number of novels and stories.