Birthright: The Book of Man by Mike Resnick

Birthright: The Book of Man by Mike Resnick
Birthright: The Book of Man by Mike Resnick

The novel “Birthright: The Book of Man” by Mike Resnick was published for the first time in 1982.

Humanity has expanded into the solar system but to travel among the stars it’s necessary to get around the limit of the speed of light. That’s impossible, until someone finds a way to make the impossible possible. That technological leap allows humanity to expand throughout the Milky Way, establishing itself as the dominant species among the many existing sentient species.

“Birthright: The Book of Man” is a novel structured as a series of short stories linked by a common thread. Each story is about a significant moment in the history of humanity in space and features important characters in the events narrated. These tales span approximately 17 millennia of history that illustrates all the best and especially the worst of the human species.

When Mike Resnick wrote “Birthright: The Book of Man,” science fiction stories still often had evil aliens and good humans. However, in this fictional universe, humans show in many different ways how they have no qualms about expanding into space at the expense of other species, by any means they deem necessary.

Throughout his life, Mike Resnick was deeply interested in the history of European colonialism and its consequences on African nations. In “Birthright: The Book of Man”, the theme of colonialism isn’t developed in-depth but is treated in a fairly generic way. In the following years, the author published the novels “Paradise“, “Purgatory“, and “Inferno“, explicitly inspired by these themes and set in this fictional universe. In those novels, he analyzed colonialism inspired by some real African stories.

Human imperialism is an element typically present in the tales of this future history about the relationships with alien species. The past history also inspired the author in the concept that even seemingly invincible empires end up collapsing. The alleged superiority of humans fuels an ideology that justifies the use of any type of exploitation of alien species and domination over them. This causes the resentment and reactions of many alien species towards a humanity that for millennia showed to be the most dangerous species in the Milky Way.

In some ideas about the future of humanity and in the fictional structure, including excerpts from historical pseudo-texts included at the beginning of most chapters, “Birthright: The Book of Man” has some similarities with Isaac Asimov’s Foundation cycle. However, in some ways, it’s the anti-Foundation, as Mike Resnick tells of a Milky Way full of sentient species and an expansion of humanity that comes at their expense. Even the final destiny of humanity is really different for the two authors.

In this sort of story of humanity in space, no character appears in more than one story. The protagonists of the various stories are important characters in the history of humanity but there’s little space to develop them because the point of this book is to offer a compendium of the future history of humanity. The consequence is that events are more important than characters.

In the following decades, Mike Resnick wrote many stories set in what was called the Birthright universe, and that’s enough to make “Birthright: The Book of Man” significant in his production. The main themes make it part of the author’s committed production, therefore I recommend reading it to anyone interested in the author and these themes. It’s available on Amazon USA, UK, and Canada.

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