Author: Nnedi Okorafor
I knew finally signing up to my local library in London would be a good thing! Binti has been on my radar for a few years; it consistently pops up on sci-fi readers’ channels on BookTube and in particular Elizabeth from BooksandPieces sells this story with infectious passion. Now I’m no hard-core science fiction reader. I enjoy John Wyndham and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy plus I’ll devour any dystopian novel you hand me. Aside from Douglas Adams, my experience with stories sent in space itself, however, extends as far as Dr. Who, Star Trek: Next Generation and Firefly. It’s not something I’ve actually read a terrible amount of. But if anything could convince me to do so it is Binti.
This book blew me away with the emotional impact it was able to have in less than one hundred pages. A novella as opposed to a full-length novel this book is the first in a series, of which two more are already available (and I’m half way through number two). It follows our protagonist Binti, a member of the Himba people who are one of multiple cultures that live on Earth. The Himba tend to remain in their own community and never do they leave Earth. Binti, however, is the first of her people to have been offered a place at Oomza University, situated on a planet other than her own, and she is not about to turn it down.
This is where our story begins: Binti leaving home silently in the early morning to travel through space and attend Oomza University. The next few pages are packed full of action; nothing unfurls as you may perhaps have expected from the offset of the novella. For a story confined to less than one hundred pages it is impossible to be disappointed by the sheer degree of content, character exploration and sci-fi goodness. The length does, however, restrict the author’s ability to provide detailed world building behind the science in this futuristic setting and how far perhaps the universe has come since today.
This is one where readers need to be willing to entirely suspend their disbelief and enter into Binti’s world with whole-hearted acceptance. Of course, this is only possible when the author has spent time and energy carefully constructing the world that is there. Although you may not be provided with pages explaining the process of each piece of science or human development contained within the novella’s pages, there is little question that everything fits together seamlessly and has a reason even if there is only a short time to dwell on it.
The character of Binti herself is the focus of this story; she provides an anchor for any reader in a world floating around in the unknown. We follow her pursuit of what she wants whilst struggling to let go of what others expect of her. We watch as she attempts to find the balance between her culture and her decision to go against what is the norm for her people. She is a multifaceted character who is able to assert herself as all of these aspects of her personhood and she will not let others dismiss her.
Whether you are a die-hard science fiction reader or a newbie to the genre Binti, is to me, one worth checking out. Following Binti’s journey in Binti was emotional and encapsulating and luckily enough for all of us there are two more books in the series where Binti’s story can continue (and both are longer than the first so that’s a bonus). I’ll confess I have already read the sequel Binti: Home, which I loved equally, and will be starting the third and final book Binti: The Night Masquerade ASAP.
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