Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Binti: Home

Nnedi Okorafor
Completed 2/5/2019, Reviewed 2/5/2019
4 stars

This is the second novella in the Binti trilogy.  At over one hundred sixty pages, it’s still short and I still wish it were longer.  This book has a theme of finding one’s identity.  That’s difficult for Binti who has already left her family and heritage behind to go to the prestigious Oomza University across the galaxy and has also acquired some alien DNA from her violent interations with the Meduse in the previous book.  The story also describes Binti’s struggle with PTSD from her traumatic experiences.  This book is once again very fast paced, but this time there are more characters and Binti grows a little more.  But instead of being a relatively self-contained piece, it ends in one heck of a cliffhanger. 

The plot begins a year after the last book.  Binti has now been at Oomza Uni for a few terms.  She takes classes there, as does her only real friend, Okwu, a Meduse who once nearly killed her.  Now she wants to go back home to see her family whom she abandoned and also to go on a spiritual pilgrimage which every Himba woman does.  Her friend Okwu decides to go with her, becoming the first Meduse to visit earth since the war between the Khoush and the Meduse ended.  Getting home, however, is a major obstacle because of her PTSD, as she is scheduled to travel on is the same ship on which she witnessed the murder of all its passengers.  Eventually, she makes it home, only to be confronted with the parochial mindset of her siblings and the shock of another new identity she never knew she had.

All the superlatives of the first book apply: prose, dialogue, action.  However, some things move a little more slowly and scenes feel a little more thoroughly explored, like her PTSD.  I was wondering why she hadn’t suffered any effects of the trauma she experienced in the first book.  It’s described here in good detail.  We also get to see firsthand the conflict between the decisions of the individual and the expectations of the community.  It’s a conflict that nearly tears her family apart.  The scene of the shouting match with her sister is quite vivid and cringe-worthy.  It’s a good example of how well Okorafor created the worlds she’s writing about. 

Binti continues to grow, but being seventeen, she still has moments of juvenility.  Specifically, Binti has a propensity to rage which she tries to suppress because she believes it makes her unclean.  It is part of why she wants to go on the pilgrimage, to be washed of its power over her.  But we find part of it also partly comes from the Meduse DNA which she acquired in the last book. 

I give this book four stars out of five.  I am completely engrossed in this series, probably because it moves so quickly.  The world-building, the prose, and the dialogue is just great.  I love Binti despite her juvenile nature.  She comes across as both mature and immature, but not annoyingly so. 

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