Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: ★★★★☆ || 4 stars
When I finished this book on the bus, I put my kindle in my bag and thought to myself this novella won that Nebula for a good reason. I went into Binti expecting a story about a girl who doesn’t fit into the world of academia. Binti covers that, but also goes beyond it. It is a delightful read that touches upon culture, war, family, expectations of society, and being an outsider. I was touched by its mix of sadness and sweetness that made it both heartbreaking and heartening.
The most powerful that thing that I took away from the story was the way that culture endures. The way we protect our culture no matter how far away from our homelands the journey of life takes us. However, I feel that Binti is the kind of book that everyone has a different experience of.
Binti is a young Himba girl who is the first of her people to be selected to study at Oomza University. She runs away from her family in order to go to the university and on her journey there is faced with terrible happenings that force her to become more than the person that she thought she could be. The characterisation is a strong point of the story. Binti carries the story wonderfully with her narrative voice and I was hooked in the first few lines. She is intelligent and honourable and it was those traits that endeared her to me and made so invested in her story.
I remain in absolute awe of Okorafor’s world building abilities. The blend of sci-fi and fantasy in Binti is amazing. Okorafor uses advanced technology that is rooted in fantasy such as space ships that are animals. As well as concepts such as ‘treeing’ where characters are able to fall into a trance like state while solving advanced mathematical problems. Not only that, but she also features an alien race that seem to be very much like jellyfish. Being a short story, the settings are limited. However, all of those settings are detailed enough that the audience can imagine exactly what they are like.
Okorafor also presents a resolution that seems almost utopian. It is the kind of resolution that made me reflect on how the treasures of so many nations that have been colonised sit in museums of our colonisers. Fiction can reflect reality, but in this case fiction can also provide us with an idea and a hope of how different the world can be.