Friday, October 2, 2015

Short Fiction Friday: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti is the first of her people to be accepted into the Oomza University. For most, a place at the university is something to be proud of, but for Binti it is a pride tinged with something akin to shame. The Himba don't travel. They don't leave their people or their land. Binti's parents will never forgive her for her actions.

But Binti's journey, one that becomes easier as she meets her fellow students and travels further from Earth, is about to take a turn for the worse. The Meduse have been at war with the Khoush and now Binti is in the middle. But, as it turns out, Binti could be the one to finally end things.

I am fairly new to Nnedi Okorafor's work - I loved her piece in Robot Uprisings but have yet to read her novels (though Lagoon is in my TBR pile at this very moment). She has been garnering huge praise in sci-fi, though, so I was particularly looking forward to the release of this novella. I was not disappointed.

The story of a girl traveling far from home in search of higher learning isn't a new one, nor is the addressing of the prejudices Binti suffers. But Okorafor adds a number of twists. First, Oomza University is an interplanetary school with students from many different worlds. Second, the story takes place in an unspecified future with technology quite different from our own. Third, the story is set during a time of galactic war!

Okorafor excels in world building. This was definitely something I'd noticed in "Spider the Artist" and was reinforced in reading Binti. For such a short piece (just under 100 pages) she has very little time to let us get to know Binti, the Himba, and the world all the while telling the story itself - and she does it with some ease. (Or at least it reads that way.) We care about Binti, we root for Binti, we want Binti to succeed! And when Binti is in danger, we fear for her as well.

Binti is a fantastic tale and one I hope you'll check out along with the rest of the Tor.com Publishing novellas this season. (You can check out my review of Paul Cornell's Witches of Lychford, which will have a follow up in 2016, here.) Also out now, The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson and Sunset Mantle by Alter S. Reiss.

For more on Nnedi Okorafor including an entire list of her releases so far, you can visit her website here.

Rating: 4.5/5

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