Of the many booths I visited at New York Comic Con 2015, one was the Tor Books booth, where I had a chance to catch up with Melissa Ann Singer, a Senior Editor with Tor. She was extremely enthusiastic about the books they had at the booth and I picked up Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti, which just felt like the title I needed to read. I know I said I finished up my summer reading, but I’m glad I trusted my gut on this because this was the best science fiction I had read in years.
Okorafor’s deep understanding of spirituality that is tied to the land one belongs to, the joy of learning, of thinking, of discovering and making…the wonder of seeing things one does not know and the terror of dealing with those things all combine into a novella that had it all.
Binti is a young woman from a people who never leave the land on which they live. Against her family’s wishes, she has been accepted into Oomza Uni to study what comes most naturally to her – mathematics. She leaves her family to start a new life…and her transport ship is embroiled in a centuries-old war that threatens to destroy Binti’s new life before it can begin.
But this is merely the setup, not the story. How Binti handles everything, the new, amazing, path she forges and how it all turns out had me gasping, it was just so…glorious.
The single sentence I want to share with you is from the very beginning, as Binti enters the shuttle, and finds herself treated as “other” by the occupants. “No Himba has ever gone to OomzaUni. So me being the only one on the ship was not that surprising. However, just because something isn’t surprising, doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with.” (italics mine)
If there is a single sentence that fully describes 2015, and everything that we are seeing in terms of diversity in media, in politics, in community life, this, to me is that sentence. And so many of us here on Okazu understand this sentence from personal experience.
If you love science fiction and culture-building and character and words that tell stories, I highly recommend Binti. And I’ve got a few more Okorafor’s books on my to-read pile now, as well.
Overall – 10
Binti is a splendid book. You should read it. Then lend it to friends and have them read it.