Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Book Review: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti is a Nebula award-winning and Hugo nominated novella by Nnedi Okorafor. I picked it up as it appears to be the frontrunner in the best novella category. I found the story engaging and fast-paced, which is great for a short read that will only take a day or two to get through. The story tells of a young Himba girl who is accepted into an interplanetary university but her parents and her community do not like for people to travel outside of their lands.

Binti is filled with unique cultural experiences and habits including covering her skin and hair with a brown, sweet-smelling otjize made from the soil of the land to protect her from the harsh environment, creating astolabs that allow communication over long distance, similar to modern day smartphone yet much more capable, and treeing, one of Binti's coolest traits, which is a sort of mathematical mediation.

The plot moves forward not pausing for readers to grasp all of the features of this futuristic world but by the end I felt I had a decent understanding of the mixture of science and magic. Okorafor has imagined some brilliant new ideas for time travel and also a cool new jellyfish-like alien species called the Meduse. This new species does not get along with humans, and the war directly affects Binti's travels to her new university. The novella as addresses social issues as the Kouth, other humans, do not respect the Himba people including by touching Binti's hair and giving her not as secure a room on the shuttle.

Binti also possesses a unique stone called an edna that protects and also allows her to communicate with different species including the Meduse who are not very communicative at first. I thought the character development was nice both for Binti and Okwu, her antagonist at first, but things are not so easy as good or bad in this space travel tale.

I would recommend this novella to readers who like a fast-paced story that has great vision and imaginations within it. The story transported me to Binti's spaceship and does a great job building a world that is both familiar and bizarre. The conclusion was a bit brief and I would like to see more of the University. I look forward to seeing how Okorafor expands this intriguing universe. 

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