A couple days ago I was describing Octavia Butler as the only female African American science fiction author that I could think of. The next day I received an email from Amazon about a book they thought I would like. I tend to ignore most of those emails, but I opened this one. I read a few reviews and picked up Binti. (Binti won both Hugo and Nebula awards for best novella in 2015.)
Binti is a 96 page novella. It was cheap and I was looking for something quick and different. Once I was on Goodreads, I saw that a couple of friends had read and liked Binti. And Friday evening John Green (author of The Fault in Our Stars) tweeted about reading the follow up book, Binti: Home.
Binti is the name of the main character. She is a 16 year old that has been accepted (and given full scholarships) to Oomza University, the best university in the galaxy. Binti’s family is from a traditional African village. While they trade with outsiders (her father is a skilled craftsman), they do not leave. Binti decides to accept the offer to study at Oomza University. She leaves without telling her family.
Part of the story is just the adjustment to people (human and alien) that are not her own. And there is some sense of not being able to go back once you have left because you are no longer the same. But there is also an alien contact story of gaining understanding of the other.
I listened to part of it on audiobook. The audiobook was fine, but not spectacular. The narration was with an African accent that was completely understandable, but not the authentic voice of the narrator. I think it was a bad production decision to create the fake African accent. (The narrator also voices Hidden Figures and Warmth of Other Suns and a number of other very well reviewed audiobooks.)
The second book came out about a week ago and is roughly twice as long (and does not have an audiobook option.) I picked it up immediately after finishing Binti and I will read it soon. This first book is a complete story and does not need a follow up book to make sense. But it also gives a good setting for future books. I hope the follow up stories are as good as the first.