Binti - Nnedi Okorafor

While there are lots of things to really like about Binti, it also reminded me why I prefer novels over novellas (of which this is the latter), the main reason being that when they're just getting going they're suddenly over. That is, unfortunately, the case here and stops me from giving it 5 stars because it left so much still unanswered...

 

The premise of Binti is that it's the tale of a woman from a particular tribe who is the first to be offered a place at a university on another planet - going there, leaving her tribe at all, will be effectively ending her relationship with her own people and making it so she can never return. Despite this high cost, she makes the decision that she has to take up the offer and sets off in the middle of the night to do so. From the moment she leaves home, she is an outsider in all sorts of ways, starting with her physical appearance but also with the way she thinks about things.

 

Even so, her journey is going relatively smoothly and she is making friends with other prospective students when her ship is ambushed by the Meduse who proceed to slaughter everyone but Binti and the ship's pilot. She discovers she can communicate with the Meduse - no mean feat, considering they're basically land jellyfish with tentacles and stingers - as well as that something she has brought with her from her home can heal wounds the Meduse have suffered.

 

Though they had planned to use the ship to attack the university - the reason being that students there have taken something that belongs to one of the Meduse - Binti is able to persuade them that there is the possibility of negotiation. She becomes their negotiator, successfully, but is changed by something done to her by the Meduse to help make that possible.

 

And that's when Binti finishes, somewhat abruptly in my opinion, with her and one of the Meduse now at the university and Binti about to discover what her people think of her disappearance and subsequent changes at the metaphorical hands of the Meduse. Just when I could happily have read a whole load more about what that conversation would involve and Binti's being forced to deal with a change imposed on her against her will, as well as living alongside the lifeform responsible for that change. It just seemed like there was so much more story to be told and while, as you would expect from Nnedi Okorafor, what there is turns out to be high quality, I was left feeling a little disappointed that it was over.