Binti - a sci-fi trilogy about a teen who leaves her world to go to university
Binti, Binti: Home, Binti: The Night Masquerade; Nnedi Okorafor
Genre: Sci-Fi, YA
Award: Hugo and Nebula awards
Published 2015, 356 pages
The first installment of this trilogy is the award winning novella (95 pages), Binti. This library book had all three novellas to be read together and I much preferred the continuity of reading the series that way. This book has action, danger, introspection and character growth, foreign creatures on foreign worlds - it has it all!
I don't read much sci-fi; I often find it too technical or sciencey for me. However, this one was readable and while the potential science didn't always make sense to me, it didn't hamper my enjoyment of the overall story. Briefly, Binti is a 17 year old girl who leaves her family, tribe, and home planet (Earth) to travel to another planet to go to the premier university in the galaxy. She's a mathematics genius. She is able to use mathematics to meditate and to create harmony, both internally for herself, and externally to calm others around her.
On the trip to the university, the space vehicle is attacked and everyone on board is killed except her. Her harmonizing skills are tested immediately and once again when the vehicle lands on the university planet. The book covers her year at school but her homesickness becomes unbearable and she returns to Earth with her best friend. The plot thickens as she has to come to terms with a family that feels she deserted them, a community who thinks she no longer belongs, a planet that she missed desperately, feelings for a boy from another tribe, internal changes - so much for a young woman to figure out.
"The way people on Oomza Uni [university] were so diverse and everyone handled that as if it were normal continued to surprise me. It was so unlike Earth, where wars were fought over and because of differences and most couldn't relate to anyone unless they were similar."
The book worked for me on two levels. First, from the sci-fi standpoint, it was entertaining and intriguing trying to imagine the creatures and terrain of the other world. The university students and staff were from all over the galaxy and descriptions were.....unusual and creative. I kept imagining that scene from Star Wars where Han Solo goes into a bar and it's people with a wide array of creatures. My favorite is the space vehicle - it's actually a living creature and inside the creature are "growing rooms" filled with trees and plants that give the 'vehicle' and travelers who require air, a place to breathe. It can communicate with Binti; it was pregnant and delivered a smaller creature that became a 'vehicle' in training. It was SO clever!
Good Character Development
The second part of the book is the development and growth of Binti. She comes from an isolated tribe on a remote part of Earth, but her mathematical skills and curiosity pulled her to University. She is lonely and afraid when confronted with suddenly being the only student left on the transport when everyone is killed. But as she realizes the potential for war, she uses her math harmonizing ability to get two warring sides to compromise.
She deals with discrimination - both directed at her and learning of her own wrong preconceptions of others. I found that very well done and there are lessons to be learned there. She deals with making some hard decisions that change her life forever but these are depicted very well. She doesn't make them cavalierly or impulsively; she tries to follow her heart even though it terrifies her sometimes. She uses her math meditation techniques frequently so she can calm herself and think.
"Your people are rude," Mwinyi snapped. He was glaring at three men standing at the front of a building laughing. "Crude, rude people." I [Bindi] grasped his arm and pulled him along. "I apologize on their behalf," I said. "Small-minded, insular people," he muttered. "I can speak their language; they can't even greet me in mine."
I found this book as I was searching for a sci-fi/fantasy novella for one of my challenges. Reading challenge: #ReadHarder20 #9 & #17: novella and last book in series; #BooklistQueen #32: next book in series; and #Bookworm20 #37, 38, 39: a trilogy.
photo via modis_wonderglobe