Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Summary: An African teen in the future leaves her (traditional) home to attend a university on another planet.

A couple of 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 who 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 being unable to return once you have left because you are no longer the same. But there is also an alien contact story of understanding 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 creating the fake African accent was a bad production decision. (The narrator also voices Hidden Figures, 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.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook

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