Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.
Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.
If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.
My First Thoughts:
I’ve been meaning to find and read this book for a while and I can’t remember exactly how I was introduced to it. I haven’t found a whole lot of afrofuturism in literature and I wanted to read more about the genre and to broaden not only myself but my library. So when I saw this book the other day I snatched it up and tried reading it as soon as possible.
This story was very interesting to read and it presented some topics and ideas that will take me some time to fully digest and absorb. Binti was not quite what I had expected when I first discovered it.
The beginning of the story was definitely the strongest part of the novella. This is when you are not only introduced to Binti, but you’re also introduced to her people and her culture. You learn that the Himba are the best at creating futuristic astrolabes and that they’re taken advantage of and mistreated by the Khoush. This narrative, to me, seemed to be a commentary on possibly the history or relationship between African and European people. The Himba and the Khoush aren’t at war with each other, but they’re not necessarily on good terms either.
As the story progresses the story begins to lose its strength. Major events happen to progress the story forward, events that should’ve had a devastating effect on the readers and Binti. However, one of the major events seemed to fall emotionally short. I understand that with a novella that you have limited time to convey a story, but I felt that not enough time was given to developing emotional attachments between the readers and the characters and the other characters to Binti. If done correctly, emotionally important scenes could’ve been told in just a few sentences or even a single paragraph that would’ve added so much to the pathos of the story.
This was an interesting coming of age story because it tackles the question of who is Binti. From the beginning she questions her decisions and what kind of person would they make her. As she continues on her journey she wonders who she is without her people, who she is as a Himba and not. Then by the end she still doesn’t quite know who she is but she accepts that she is more than just her people’s traditions. This was an interesting journey because of the added element of her people. The Himba are very traditional, something that I haven’t seen in a lot of coming of age fiction, so the traditions and the conflicts associated with them made the story more unique.
This story was very unique and interesting to read. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read soft sci-fi literature, afrofuturism, or just wants to read something different. Overall, Binti was entertaining and thought provoking. I really enjoyed the concept of the Meduse, which were pretty much Space Jellyfish, but I also felt that they weren’t really developed. In the story they’re seen as ruthless killers and then suddenly they’re described as honorable with no real reason, at least not a memorable one. The science in Binti is very limited, not much is really explained and you just have to accept that it’s real, which makes this a soft or lukewarm sci-fi. I think this story would have been stronger if it were longer, and not considerably longer either. A lot of emotion was lost that could have been saved with a few well-placed sentences. Other than that, the coming of age story was unique because of the added traditional background of the Himba, making Binti’s journey different from similar stories. I’m curious what happens in the rest of the series, so I’ll be looking forward to reading more about Binti’s journey.
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Science fiction, Afrofuturism, Coming of Age