You’ll love Binti. In the first book of the trilogy that bears her name, she sets out at the age of sixteen for Oomza Uni on a distant planet. “None of my family had wanted me to go,” she notes. Oomza Uni “was the top of the top, its population was only 5 percent human . . . [and Binti] was the first Himba in history to be bestowed with the honor of acceptance.”
Binti (Binti Trilogy #1) by Nnedi Okorafor (2015) 98 pages
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Binti explains: “My tribe is obsessed with innovation and technology, but it is small, private, and . . . we don’t like to leave Earth. We prefer to explore the universe by traveling inward, as opposed to outward. No Himba has ever gone to Oomza Uni.”
Her full name is Binti Ekeopara Zuzu Dambu Kaipka of Namib. “I had become a master harmonizer by the age of twelve,” she observes. “I could communicate with spirit flow and convince them to become one current. I was born with my mother’s gift of mathematical sight.” And that talent would be put to the test on her journey to the university planet.
On the eighteenth day of the trip, the more than one hundred human passengers and crew members of Binti’s ship are attacked by a hostile species. All but Binti and the pilot are killed. The aliens are the Meduse, a translucent species resembling jellyfish. Their goal is to attack Oomza Uni, where they will doubtless kill huge numbers. Binti’s challenge is to harmonize the goals of the Meduse with those of the multi-species administrators of Oomza Uni. And in that lies the tale.
Okorafor based the character of Binti on an existing African culture. The Himba people are an indigenous group of 50,000 living in northern Namibia and southern Angola. They are a semi-nomadic, pastoralist people—the last such community in Namibia.
About the author
Nnedi Okorafor is the author of eight science fiction and fantasy novels for adults as well as several books for young adults and children. She is also a coauthor of the four Black Panther comics for Marvel on which the film of the same name was based. However, in science fiction circles, she is best known for the Binti Trilogy, which won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novella. Although her books are based in Africa, she is American; her parents were Nigerian immigrants. She holds a PhD and is an associate professor of creative writing, currently at the University of Buffalo.
For further reading
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- The ultimate guide to the all-time best science fiction novels;
- Great sci-fi novels reviewed: my top 10 (plus dozens of runners-up); and
- The top 10 dystopian novels reviewed here (plus dozens of others).
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