Publisher: PENGUIN PUTNAM TRADE (07/07/2020)
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor includes a new Binti story in addition to the three original novellas. Okorafor has an amazingly original voice. She pulls imagery and feeling and environment from her African heritage and melds it into a science fiction universe that is very different from the standard American/European voice.
Binti: The Sacred Fire
Binti: The Night Masquerade
In the first story, we are introduced to Binti. Binti is a young Himba girl with extraordinary abilities in mathematics and ‘harmonizing’. She uses these abilities to create ‘astrolabes’ which are sort of analogous to our smart phones in this future. As a good Himba, she is expected to go within and stay with the group locally. She has the ability to take over her father’s astrolabe creation work, and is expected to do so. When she is granted entrance to the prestigious Oomza University, it is clear that she cannot accept entrance to this off-planet, extra-solar system university. But she slips away anyway without telling her family to catch the ship off-planet to join.
The ship contains the new human students who will be attending the university. Binti is the only Himba. In fact, she is the first Himba to attend Oozma Uni. The rest of the human students are Khoush, a lighter skinned group of humans who traditionally have thought of the Himba as beneath them. The Khoush have a long history of war with the Medusae, a jellyfish-like race. When the ship is attacked en route by the Medusae, Binti needs to find a way to survive and try to prevent the Medusae from bringing the war to Oozma.
Binti is forced to change and be changed throughout this story and the rest of the trilogy. She is literally reinvented more than once in the course of the stories. She has to come to grips with tragedies and anger and the unknown. She needs to decide who she really is as each story reveals new aspects of who she is, where she came from, and who she may be in the future. She learns. She grows. She changes. And sometimes she despairs. My one gripe with the trilogy is that there is a little deus ex machina solution to a major issue near the end of the final story, but it was not too over-the-top for the Binti universe. It allowed the story to continue and, with a story I like so much, continuing is a good thing.
I love Okorafor’s voice. She brings a new view and new perspective and just some really good stories to her work. She creates a universe that is both extraordinary and believable. You can feel and understand the culture of the Himba, and of the Khoush and even of the Medusae. She populates Oozma and the rest of her universe with multiple species and places. It could become a chaotic jumble, but instead, is a symphony of multiple points of view and perspectives.
I recently reviewed another of her novellas, Remote Control. I actually liked that one even more than the Binti stories. The Binti stories are a little more traditional sci fi than that story, but they are in no way traditional sci fi stories. The fact that I liked Binti as much as I did and it is not even be her best work makes me ready to read more of Nnedi Okorafor.
And if you like science fiction, check out my book. Plastivore.