Sunday, September 2, 2018


I have a pile of nonfiction I want to read.  But it's the long weekend so I decided to take a break and read the novella Binti instead. Binti, written by Nnedi Okorafor, is a Hugo and Nebula award winner.  I've seen it go by at work a few times and was intrigued (although I will freely admit I didn't actually read the synopsis on the back of the book). 

Binti is the first of her people, the Himba, to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution in the galaxy.  But in going she is going against her family and her people's traditions; the Himba are of the land and do not leave it.  Stealing away in the dead of night, she leaves her homeland for the first time ever.  And even before she steps foot in space, she finds herself an alien among the majority Khoush in the spaceport.  But she makes her way relatively free of incident onto her transport, where she meets some of her fellow students.

Now I was enjoying this story as a fish out of water story. I liked Okorafor's world building.  The Himba people were very interesting and I was hoping to learn more about the Khoush as Binti interacted with them on the shuttle.  Unfortunately that was kind of glossed over because pretty much everyone on the shuttle except Binti gets murdered when an alien race, the Meduse, arrive. 

The story actually did lose me a bit around this point. 

The Meduse try to murder Binti too, but she is magically able to protect herself with an ancient artifact she happened to have with her as her good luck charm.  The artifact hurts the Meduse.  But it also allows her to communicate with them.  She discovers that the Meduse are heading to Oomza University to retrieve their chief's stinger, which was stolen from him and somehow ended up in the school.  Binti convinces them to arrive peacefully and let her act as an interpreter for them to get the stinger back.  She does so, and as a gesture of goodwill, the school asks that the Meduse send her new friend, Okwu, to the school as well.

I wasn't quite sure what to make of all this.  I'm glad that it all worked out, but the fact that the Meduse murdered a whole bunch of students didn't seem to matter at all to the university's deliberations and final decision on the whole thing.  I guess the ending just seemed a little too abrupt for my liking; Binti really seemed like it should have been a novel, rather than a novella.

All in all, the world building is fantastic and I would love to know more about all the cultures in this book (the Himba, Khoush, and the Meduse).  But the story itself could have been expanded a fair bit (and in my opinion, would have been the stronger for it).

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