Once again I am back with a novella to share with you all! This is another popular one on the review scene that also had the honor of taking home both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novella in 2016. This is my second time reading something from Nnedi Okorafor and the latest in what is apparently a lengthy line of Tor novellas on my reading list.
The story begins on Earth in the distant future and introduces us to Binti, a young Himba woman living in Nairobi. She is the first person from her community to earn admission to the prestigious Oomza Uni, the galaxy’s most elite technological institute. Her acceptance, however, is not without controversy. Despite being renowned for their mathematical and technological skills, the Himba people rarely leave their home city and often face extreme prejudice from others. Binti is determined, however, and decides she can’t pass up the opportunity so she sneaks off one night to catch a space shuttle to the university, leaving behind her home and family forever. The universe (of course) has other plans, for just as Binti starts to settle into her new life, the shuttle is intercepted by a group of hostile aliens. Protected by a mysterious trinket she brought from home, Binti finds herself held captive aboard the ship and must use all her wits to not only remain alive, but prevent further bloodshed as well.
I enjoyed this read and found myself really getting drawn into it. The author’s decision to slowly reveal the full scope of her world to the reader as it was encountered by Binti really added to the mysteries and surprises of the novella. There was one moment early on where the story throws an absolute shock at you and from that point on I couldn’t put it down. You’ll know it when you get there. Equally importing, I found Binti herself to be a very engaging protagonist in her own right. There was a lot of tension in her character from being an outcast from her homeland (by choice) and new surroundings (by prejudice) that had a very profound impact on her actions throughout the story. It was also interesting to see how her cultural traditions, in particular her cosmetic rituals, shaped the way she looked at and interacted with the universe and the other beings in it. I was likewise intrigued by how her fellow Himba approached mathematics as a spiritual undertaking. I am admittedly baffled by higher math, but I nonetheless find that sort of thing fascinating to contemplate.
Overall I thought this was an excellent story that I would recommend to other sci-fi readers. There are two other books in this series that I am looking forward to reading once I can get my (virtual) hands on them. This one ends on something of a cliffhanger and I really am curious to see what direction the story goes from there.