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.
See, here’s the clever thing about this book. At its heart, it’s a celebration of culture in defiance of outside perception. It’s an affirmation of tradition and ritual and belief, while at the same time being an honest exploration of the wonders of the future, the outside, the unknown. It flies in the face of any assumption that the unknown can’t be perfectly unified with the familiar. But more than that – Binti’s very survival depends on her achieving this unification. She must be proud of where she’s come from if she’s to make it to anywhere new. Knowledge of science is not incompatible with knowledge of belief, and Binti is stronger than her fellow students, her family and her teachers by staying true to herself – all of herself.
Binti is short, sharp and shocking. Nnedi plunges us into this new world without pampering – just as Binti herself is having to stride out towards a new world. The writing is taut and brilliant, and the world is amazingly, dangerously real. As short as this story is, it’s complex and powerful. I won’t forget this one in a hurry, and I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel.
Binti is a young black woman, one of the Himba people from Namibia. Nnedi Okorafor was born in the US to Igbo (Nigerian) parents.