Summary: Binti returned home to try to find stability, she found more confusion realizing that the home she thought she understood was not what she understood. And now she also brought war to her home.
Part of what is important about alien stories is that they are alien. Part of what is important about reading an African author writing alien stories is that she points out that sometimes those of different human cultures are actually just as alien as the actual aliens. And sometimes those from our own culture or family are less close than those aliens that are adopted into out family.
The Night Masquerade is the third part to what is really a single long novel. I assume that these will be packaged together in a single volume at some point. Together they are less than 500 pages. There are three distinct parts here, but the story is a single story.
Binti, in part one, secretly leaves her traditional African village home to enter an alien university against the wishes of her family. During the space travel everyone on board expect for her is massacred as part of a long feud. Binti, as a harmonizer, helps to solve the immediate problem and bring about a peace, but at great personal cost to herself.
She finds her place at the university, but the adjustment is hard and after a year, she comes home with her alien companion. She wants to participate in the ritual for her to become an adult woman of her tribe and be grounded in the tradition of her home. But when she returns, she finds that her father is actually part of a desert nomad tribe. A tribe that has long history with aliens, explaining some of her natural abilities and interests that are unique among her tribe.
In The Night Masquerade, the third part of the story, while Binti is visiting her extended desert family, the Khoush, a powerful human group who has a long feud with the Meduse, which is the alien group from the first book and the companion she brought home to meet her family. Although there was a negotiated peace and permission was given for her friend to be on Earth, the human Khoush still attack, threatening Binti’s family and village.
I am not going to lie and suggest that I actually followed all of the details well. There were places were I realize later that I was not fully understanding what was going on, but I understood enough. The writing was engaging. It is appropriate for young adult reading, but it is not a young adult book itself (in my opinion.)
The exploration of tradition and change as well as the theme of what it means to be alien was very good. With The Night Masquerade, the story is complete, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Binti has another book.
If you like scifi, this is a unique take on scifi. The first book won both the Nebula and Hugo awards. And I think the Night Masquerade is just as good as the first. All three together on kindle still cost less than many full novels.