Mini Review: BINTI by Nnendi Okorafor

Publisher: Tor.com
Page Count: 96
Release Date: September 22, 2016

51jxu447eolBINTI is a captivating novella that threads the needle of both telling a complete story and leaving you wanting more.  Set some time in the distant future, the tale follows Binti, a young Himba girl whose gift at mathematics has earned her a spot at the prestigious Oomza University.  During the space journey to the university, the shuttle is waylaid by a species called the Meduse, jellyfish-like creatures that have come for revenge against the wrongs perpetrated by Oomza.  Binti must find a way to communicate with the Meduse in order to save herself and the university – and there’s only a few days before the shuttle finishes its journey.

The core of Binti’s character is her struggle between tradition and new things.  There is so much of her culture that she loves, but at the same time, she doesn’t want to be confined by it.  She wants to be able to travel to new worlds and ask questions, goals that are in direct conflict with what her family wants for her life.  This inner turmoil is part of Binti’s every action, down to simple details like how she decides to handle her ankle bracelets when she first comes on board the ship to Oomza.  Binti’s desire to find a balance, to honor her heritage while still moving forward, is the crux of her journey, and an interesting one to watch, especially framed as it is in Binti’s attempts to understand the Meduse that threaten her life.

My one critique is that occasionally I was a bit confused by some of the more sci-fi elements of the story.  On occasion, I had to re-read a passage a few times trying to grasp what was being described. So much of the story is wonderfully drawn that it bumped on me when I couldn’t quite understand what I was trying to picture. Still, this is a lovely novella and a perfect afternoon read.  I look forward to reading the rest of the series!

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