Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Series: Binti #1
Publisher: Tor Books
First Published: July 24, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction
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.
I have been excited to read this book for a long time given how much praise it has received, and I feel that this may have built up my expectations. What the story does well is to establish Binti as a character, she is a talented young Himba woman, an semi-Nomadic indigenous people from northern Namibia. The Himba are most famously known for covering themselves with otjize that protects their skin from the harsh desert climate. In the futuristic imagining of the Himba people, they are still isolated from society and so Binti’s journey into the rest of the world is one of discovery but also danger as she encounters prejudice everywhere she goes.
“We prefer to explore the universe by traveling inward, as opposed to outward.”
I really like Binti’s character, her ambitions, kindness, and cleverness; Binti’s characterization is the strongest part of the novel. Okorafor has a writing style that is easily readable, and the story moves at a lightning-fast speed. While I enjoyed the pacing of the story, the short story format worked against the plot. The idea of a girl settling a war is an ambitious one, so the conflict was condensed to a single conflict. What happens during this conflict can only be described as deus ex machina, everything was solved so easily and with convenient technology. I also took issue with the resolution, which made no sense with the events that happen near the beginning of the novel. I’m a pacifist at heart and am all for peaceful resolutions, but the way that things were resolved was just too ideal to the point of being unbelievable. Overall it is a decent start to a series, despite its faults I am engaged enough in Binti’s character that I am still interested to see where her story goes.