Book Review: Binti

Published By: Tor
Publication Date:  September 22, 2015
Page Count: 90
Buy it at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or IndieBound
Source: Interlibrary Loan
Science Fiction

Binti is leaving family, home, and Earth to become the first Himba to attend Oomza University, the most prestigious school in the galaxy.  To get there, she must travel through space and past the warlike Meduse who have a long-running conflict with the University.  Can she get there in one piece?

Despite some apparent plot holes toward the end, Binti and its author deserve admiration and wide readership.  The way Okorafor brings Himba culture to the forefront of this novella is unique.  Though Binti may not be as well-developed because of its short length, the beauty and content of Okorafor's prose invites obvious comparisons with Octavia Butler (possibly the most famous African-American SF author).  Reading science fiction with an African sensibility is an enlightening change from the typically white male perspective prevalent in the genre.

Binti herself is in a similar position.  She is a mathematically gifted Harmonizer, able to bring disparate things into harmony.  She has used this gift for years helping her father create electronic astrolabes for communicating over interstellar distances.  She is, in a word, unique.  Coming from so inward  looking a cultural background, her family cannot understand her desire to travel to Oomza University, and indeed they forbid it.  Sneaking away, Binti then becomes an outsider again when she must confront how different she is from the others on her ship to Oomza.  When danger strikes, Binti must marshal all she knows, both scientific and cultural, to overcome the situation.

Binti is one of those books that I think everyone should read.  It won the two most prestigious awards in science fiction, the Hugo and the Nebula.  It represents a different aspect of a popular genre.  It has a strong female lead who is in touch with her own culture, yet also not afraid to step outside it when she determines for herself that it is right.  The story isn't perfect, but it perfectly fits what we need most now in fiction.


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.