BOOK TITLE: Binti: Home
AUTHOR: Nnedi Okorafor
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2017
PUBLISHER: Tom Doherty Associates
So, I finally read one of the much talked about Nnedi Okorafor fantasy/science fiction novels. Opening my Nnedi Okorafor account with the recently released Tor.com novella, Binti: Home. And, I have to say, considering how much good things I had heard, and kept hearing about Nnedi Okorafor’s works, and also how a number of her titles were available at my disposal, I feel a teeny tiny bit stupid for putting off reading a Nnedi Okorafor’s title up until now. Anyways, now I am no longer a stranger to the beautiful and mentally stimulating world of Nnedi Okorafor’s speculative fiction. For that reason, I’m gladly putting all of that stupidity behind me.
If there is something I discovered from reading this novella, it’s that watching a science-fiction movie is one thing. Reading it, on the other hand, is something entirely different. It’s a more engaging and interactive experience. With a movie, the bulk of the heavy lifting has already been done by the gracious filmmakers. The novella, however, had me piecing alternate universes together, carefully stacking detail upon detail to create a habitable alien/human ecosystem. It did not matter much that I have never been, and still am not, a believer in alien theory. With Binti: Home, Nnedi Okorafor had me stretching my otherworldly imaginative muscles. I was, all through, busy imagining extraterrestrial creatures in all their uniqueness, glory and occasional hideousness to the human eye.
Binti: Home had my mind and imagination at work for its entirety. And what’s more fun than a mentally engaging book? Nothing, right? With each turn of the novel’s pages, I felt more and more like a movie director familiarizing himself with the world of a new script. I was, specifically, feeling like James Cameron, as the world of the novella just kept reminding me of Cameron’s Avatar.
Sadly, I only discovered Binti: Home is actually a sequel to Binti when I was over halfway through with the novella and that I should have read Binti first. However, reading the series out of order did not really impede comprehension and gratification derived from reading the novella. Thankfully, adequately detailed references were made to important actions from the prequel to aid comprehension.
The novel is eponymously titled after its lead character, Binti Ekeopara Zuzu Dambu Kaipka. Binti is a human from the Himba village of Osemba land studying at the Oomza University, an extraterrestrial University. The sequel picks up at about a year after Binti’s enrollment into the university. Binti, bothered with a lot of unanswered questions, decides it best to return to her homeland to complete a pilgrimage. She hopes, so much, that embarking on this desert pilgrimage would help her find clarity. There is also the cultural obligation attached to this pilgrimage for Himba women that she hopes to simultaneously fulfill.
But a lot has changed for Binti in her one year away from home. For one, she has formed an unlikely friendship with Okwu, an alien creature of the Meduse genealogy. A friendship she is certain would be frowned upon by majority back home. Also, she is now part human and part Meduse, and no longer an entirely pure human breed.
Her hopes and expectations for her return to earth are high. But the joy she expected was short lived as things turned sour shortly after her arrival. The events that unfold following her arrival are clearly not what she had wished for. She seems to only move from one mishap to even bigger ones, mishaps of both personal and intergalactic implications. The clarity she hopes to find evades her, and her return to earth doesn’t yield desired results. Binti is ultimately left questioning her decision to return home in the first place.
Like I said, the world of the novel was one of the first things that reeled me in. I found it both strange and fascinating at the same time. A world where intergalactic travels are completed inside the bellies of big fishes – reminds you of a certain bible tale? One so welcoming of diversity that humans and aliens could coexist in the same physical space. It felt so good, and different for a change, to be able to imagine such things within the context of our African world.
This novella was definitely a good read. And, judging from my experience with Binti: Home, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of Nnedi Okorafor’s other titles.