sturgeonslawyer (sturgeonslawyer) wrote,

Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okoraror (2019-23,24,25)

Three books and a short story in one volume:
_Binti: Sacred Fire_
_Binti: Home__Binti: The Night Masquerade_

Binti Ekeopara Zuzu Dambu Kaipka s a young girl - about 18? - of the Himba people, on the edge of the Namibian desert. The Himba are looked-down-on by the more powerful neighboring Khoush people; the Himba in turn look down on the "Desert People." Because of her skill at the mathematical techniques called "treeing" and "harmonizing", Binti has been invited to join the prestigious Galactic Oomza University.

This is an interesting future world, where the only humans ever mentioned are those from the Namibian area of Africa. The Khoush have recently reached a truce, of sorts, with the Meduse, a violent and honor-bound alien race. Many Khoush travel to the stars; Binti is the first Himba to do so, and she is violating a dozen tribal norms by doing so.

The ship to Oomza is attacked by Meduse, and Binti, the only survivor (apparently due to her possession of an ancient artifact), finds herself drawn to "harmonize" a peace between the Meduse and the University. But to make her plausible, to them, as their representative, the Meduse sting her, causing her hair to be replaced by _okuowo_,  tentacles that are inherent to the Meduse physiology. This is the first in a series of events which lead Binti to question her nature, her identity, and whether she really belongs anywhere in the Universe.

And that's about half of book 1. The story convolutes, contracts in on itself and spins outward, and Okorafor takes the trouble to invite her readers to genuinely ask the hard questions that many SF writers seem to think they have answered, usually in some smug aphorism. The Binti books offer no smug easy answers, only harder strictures on what an answer might look like.

It's all too frequently done to posit writer X as the successor to writer Z. I think that a good case can be made that Okorafor is, at least, _a_ successor to Ursula K. Le Guin, a writer more interested in questions than answers, in human implications than kewl gadgets, and in personal than universal significances,
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