Update: Reread – My thoughts are about the same as when I originally read this novella. I think that Okorafor’s writing with the atom currents, astrolabe, math treeing, and edan was a little too cryptic. It almost felt pretentious at times and way too metaphysical for me. I like this novella but it didn’t get better with the second read through, it might of dropped off some.
When I saw the lineup for the TOR novella imprint, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, stood right out for me. Not only is the cover amazing but I’ve been wanting to try an Okorafor book for awhile now. This was the perfect time for me to give Okorafor’s writing a try without committing to a novel length sized book, so I jumped on the opportunity.
Binti is about a young girl from the Himba people on Earth. She is dark skinned, has long dread-like hair, and uses the clay of her people to rub on her skin. The clay is how the Himba people cleanse themselves and is a large part of their culture. Binti is the first Himba to be accepted into the special university for gifted students. Many of the lighter skinned people have never seen a Binti in civilization and they are taken aback by her. In their ignorance they treat her differently than everyone else. On the space flight to the university, the ship gets hijacked by an alien race called the Meduse. Binti must survive and comes to befriend an unlikely ally.
I enjoyed this novella. It is relatively short, only 47 pages in length. It is a story about ignorance and overcoming that ignorance. The beginning of the novella shows how the other humans are ignorant toward Binti and then later how the Meduse are ignorant towards her as well. However, Binti is incredibly ignorant towards the Meduse species as well, and it is only through the friendship of a Meduse that the ignorance passes away. This is a classic story of enemies coming to an understanding and becoming friends.
The Himba people were fantastic. I loved learning about Binti’s culture and beliefs. There was so much mystery with the clay that she put on her body and the mysterious device she had with her. I wanted to learn more things about the culture of the Himba people.
This was my first experience with Okorafor’s writing and I found it to be elliptical at times, only suggesting to me what she wanted to say about the scene, instead of saying it clearly. At times the writing felt cut, like there should have been more explanation of the scene, especially at the end of page breaks. I wanted more depth on how these characters were feeling during the stressful altercations. The writing style just didn’t work for me much. I felt the writing in the first 1/3 of the book was much more readable than the last 2/3’s.
I did enjoy this little novella/novelette and I liked the character and world building enough for me to check out one of her longer novels. Glad I grabbed this and gave it a try.