Binti (Binti #1) – Nnedi Okorafor

25667918Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Borrowed
First Published: September 22nd, 2015
Recommended Age: 14+
Pacing: Slow
Genres & Themes: New Adult (?), Science Fiction, Short Story, Alien Race, Culture, War-Setting


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 expected darkness to envelop me as I read this, but instead, I was introduced to a world that, as unwelcoming as it may seem, does actually understand human and alien suffering and is open to creating alliances with presumed enemies.

Binti is gifted – so gifted that she was accepted to the Oomza University, the first of her community to study there. From the moment she steps foot outside of her home, she realizes how unwelcome and misunderstood her group (the Himba people) is.

But she doesn’t let that affect her. What does affect her, quite quickly, is the Meduse, who can kill human beings in less than a second. When she comes in contact with them, she doesn’t expect to live till the end of the hour.

So far it looks very intense, doesn’t it? And indeed it is, but it is the sort of intensity found in books that are written not to shock, spook or terrify, but to show that change can be achieved if one is courageous enough to attempt it, and Binti certainly is.

Except, she’s also young. I don’t remember her age being mentioned, but I would assume she’s between 18 and 20. And it shows. She may be bold and smart, but she can also be overdramatic, silly and impertinent at times. Read this:

‘‘All you do is kill.’’ I opened my eyes. Energy that I didn’t know I still had rippled through me and I was so angry that I couldn’t catch my breath. ‘‘Like… like you…. Killed my friends!’’ I coughed and slumped down, weakly. ‘‘My friends,’’ I whispered, tears welling in my eyes. ‘‘Oooh, my friends!’’

Don’t you just really, really want to roll your eyes right now? I do. I’m incapable of reading that passage without shaking my head and directing my eyes skyward, because that’s the kind of passage I’m expecting to find in a soap opera, and this novella is not that.

In conclusion, the story could have used some more editing, seeing that this does not read like it was written by a professional author. In fact, the author mentions her daughter helping her come up with the plot, and all I can think is, ‘‘How old is she??’’ But look, I do love a world filled with people that are able to put the past behind and accept the help of enemies, so this world is one I want to read more about. It is in no way perfect, but perhaps that’s what makes it interesting.


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