Binti (Binti #1) by Nnedi Okorafor
Science Fiction | Novella
Published by Tor.com
Released September 22nd, 2015
Goodreads | Amazon
Binti is the first in a trilogy of science fiction novellas written by Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor. The series has been wildly successful, winning both the 2015 and 2016 Hugo Award for best novella.
The story is centered around Binti, a member of an ethnic group known as the Himba based on Earth. She is the first of her people to be accepted into an intergalactic university, called Oomza Uni. Her family does not wish for her to go, as they would rather she stay and assist her father in his astrolabe shop.
One night, Binti makes the decision to go to the university, hoping her family will one day forgive her. She can’t pass up such a unique opportunity. On the spaceship to take her to the university, things don’t go quite as planned when a hostile alien race, known as the Meduse, takes over the ship and Binti is the only one left alive.
As this is a novella, obviously there’s not much room for backstory, which is one of the reasons I had a great deal of trouble connecting to this story. The plot, structure, and world (or universe)-building is all easy to understand, but I didn’t find myself enjoying any of it, even as a die-hard science fiction fan. I know I’m in the minority with this opinion, but the story felt really flat and simplistic to me, and I don’t have any interest in continuing the series.
Despite the short length, Okorafor did a wonderful job of Binti’s character development. While the plot of the story is definitely important, Binti’s character is the main spotlight here. She has to protect herself against the Meduse and learn a great deal in a short period of time. Binti is immediately likable and carried the story. It was also nice to see a talented math-loving female character.
I loved the concept of this story and the importance that Okorafor placed upon cultural differences and acceptance, which is undoubtedly an important lesson. However, I found it hard to be sympathetic to the Meduse, who commit an act of terrorism and mass-violence upon boarding Binti’s ship. I get it – misunderstanding between cultures, language barriers, and all that – but damn, it was hard to feel much pity for them.
Despite not loving this novella, I’m still very much intrigued by Nnedi Okorafor’s writing. I have a copy of one of her other novels, Akata Witch, that I’m really looking forward to reading. This one just missed the mark for me.