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There was this great book I read (audio book) almost 10 years ago. I vaguely remember that it was something about human history for the next 10,000 years up to our extinction. I don't know the title. :( Please help!

I remember that it was a series of vignettes, short stories which individually tell about one event in this very long story of human exploration of the galaxy. These are some of the stories I remember:

  • Early on, humans discover a planet with no apparent life forms so we steal the energy produced by the interaction of the sun and the planet, unknowingly starving the poor creatures who live there.
  • Humans create an olympic cult where our species continually challenges other species and wins. The short story focused on a foot race which the human barely won.
  • A discussion of degrees of criminal behavior. A human sneezes and accidentally kills hundreds of crystalline aliens. He is held for murder although it was clearly an accident. The lawyer tries to explain to the aliens the concept of manslaughter as an unintentional murder.
  • An alien dignitary becomes sick while visiting earth. She has four orifices for breathing, eating, sex and expelling waste. The doctor figures out that her planet has a much lower oxygen level and she is suffering from oxygen toxicity. He lowers the oxygen and she recovers.
  • An election is being held and a newspaper man talks the incumbent into signing an agreement. The newspaper agrees to give him a one-for-one rebuttal to anything which is said about him and he agrees not to otherwise interfere with the media. This results in a complete shutout as the media manages not to mention the candidate at all and he loses because no one even knows he is running.
  • There is a galactic war between humans. I only remember that this tracked a rather good commander as he tries to take over the main part of the human empire. He loses.
  • The human empire is ruled by a bureaucracy which is terribly inefficient. It takes centuries to get anything done so that the colonists ask for terraforming help and the empire comes in and wipes out the crops that they have finally managed to make thrive in the interval. The emperor demands that his people make their own decisions and act independently, but then rethinks it when everyone starts making really poor decisions that make him look bad.
  • The end of the book is one man and two women on a planet surrounded by aliens bent on destroying the last humans because we have proven just too dangerous to keep around. They blow up the planet and kill everyone making the human race extinct in a final act of spite.

Like I said, it was really good, but I just don't know the title. Thanks, BSD

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Birthright: The Book of Man by Mike Resnick.

I reread my copy a few years ago, and found I was still quite fond of it. It definitely is the one you're remembering. The fragile crystalline aliens destroyed by a human tourist due to a malfunction in his containment suit, for instance. And all the other stuff you summarized. It paints a rather bleak picture by assuming that humans are far more aggressive about trying to conquer/colonize other people's planets than most (if not all) of the sentient alien races in this galaxy are inclined to be.

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