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.
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
“People were people, everywhere.”
I don’t think it’s possible for Nnedi Okorafor to write anything that I (and the rest of the world) don’t absolutely love. Her storytelling ability and imagination are just excellent. Binti is no exception. Almost from the first sentence, I was drawn into her world and her character. Even though her time, culture, and experiences are firmly science fiction, they are not foreign.
Binti is a young girl who has been handed her life’s dream: to study math at the galaxy’s premier university. But she is from a marginalized people who do not stray from home. Her people stay, they do as their people have always done, and they do not question it—especially if they are a woman. But Binti is unbelievably talented, and the university has given her a full scholarship if she will only make her way there. So she shocks her entire people and leaves while they are asleep, shunning herself and severing ties to her culture in one fell swoop.
“If I couldn’t make otjize here, then I’d have to . . . change.”
During her journey (on a spaceship built within a giant, living creature), they are attacked by a species that has long been at war with the race of people who hold the status and power on Earth. They would kill her, but she has a mysterious and ancient piece of technology that stands in their way. She must be strong enough to survive the journey and then save many lives—both friend and “foe”—when the ship arrives at the university’s planet.
“Okwu was young, like me. And maybe that’s why it was so eager to die and prove itself to the others and that’s why the others were fine with it.”
This story is a novella, and it goes quick, but there is so, so much packed into it. So much about identity, culture, power, prejudice, belonging. I loved how she referred to multiple beings as “people” no matter their species, although I also noticed that individuals were always “it,” and never “he” or “she.” I loved the way Binti’s battle within herself to both align with and differentiate herself from her people brought out so much about her character. I loved how much I learned from her about the experiences of people who are less privileged than I am. I loved her strength, her intelligence, and her powerful femininity.