Book review: Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor

13 05 2018

Nnedi Okorafor is an American speculative fiction writer, of Nigerian heritage, who has become one of the most well-known proponents of what is now termed ‘Afrofuturism’, a subgenre of speculative fiction which draws largely on African lore and culture. Okorafor has won numerous awards for her work, including the Hugo, the Nebula, and the World Fantasy Award. I’ve previously reviewed the first ‘Binti’ novella, Binti, here.

BintiHome

In Binti: Home, master harmoniser Binti, whose studies at Oomza Uni are (for the most part) progressing well, is drawn to return to her homeland, so she can partake in the pilgrimage which is a rite-of-passage for her people, the Himba. But going home is not straightforward, for Binti has grown in ways that are highly atypical for her people: she has escaped off-planet, she has been exposed to a plethora of alien cultures on Oomza, she has become innately connected with Okwu, a member of the warfaring alien race, the Meduse, with which Binti has been pivotal in securing a truce. To the Khoush people, especially, who live alongside the Himba, the Meduse are murderous monsters: how will they perceive Binti’s decision to have Okwu accompany her to Earth? And for that matter, how will Binti herself cope with the flight back aboard Third Fish, the living ship aboard whom Binti had earlier been the only human survivor of a vicious assault by the Meduse on the flight to Oomza?

Binti: Home is a busy, fizzy, deeply-felt novella that explores the uneasy interaction between tradition, change, and personal growth. It frequently seems to be pulling in several directions at once, ensuring that the narrative is at times disorienting, but the end result is to convey a complicated world—indeed, a complicated universe—that is distinctly larger than the novella it contains. The worldbuilding is expansive and impressive, and Binti is a complex and sympathetic character, wearing her strengths alongside her vulnerabilities (and on occasion mistaking which is which). And Okorafor ensures that readers will want to find out what happens next, in the series’ concluding novella.

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