Verdict: Not for me.
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Novella
Published by tor.com, 2015
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 think I will have to accept the fact that Nnedi Okorafor’s writing is not for me. This is the second book by her I tried to read after DNFing her earlier Who Fears Death. I want to like her books because I think she has fascinating thoughts on what she calls Africanfuturism and I like her social media presence a whole lot but I struggled with this book.
This short novella follows Binti, the first of her people (the Himba) to be accepted into Oomza University. Leaving her disapproving family behind, Binti starts her journey towards this university planet when her ship is attacked by a group of aliens called the Meduse who have been at war with other humans for ages.
In theory, I should have adored this. I like books about identity and Binti’s identity and her relationship with those around her are one of the foci of this book. But while I appreciated Okorafor’s ideas, ultimately I thought the exploration of these themes was pretty flat. Obviously, this might be due to the format of the story and possibly something that would be remedied if I read the rest of the series but of these pages I had, I was not the biggest fan.
Another problem I had, but one that is definitely a me-thing, was the way in which maths was used. Binti is a genius-level balancer and can solve complex mathematical problems in her head – and somehow that helps her solve her other problems? I am not sure I followed this train of thought at all (I haven’t done proper maths in years). This points to a problem I sometimes run into when reading science fiction: I want to understand the science or at least feel like it makes a reasonable amount of sense, something that I don’t demand of fantasy for example; magic does not have to be rooted in the real world.
Ultimately, this was just not a book for me. I wanted to like this so much because I have heard so many people rave about this and I do think that this is very much a case of wrong book for the wrong reader.
I read this book both for Novellas in November and for Sci-Fi Month, both of which are run by people whose blogs I adore.