I have something to confess to you. It’s not a big deal, but it’s distracting so I want to save it for just a bit. Keep it on your mind though, I’m going to circle back.
First, context: Despite the stack of books I’m currently “reading” and the influx of books I refuse to stop buying, I got an itch to seek out more. A specific need. I wanted to read Afrofuturism. Yes, I admit, the first Black Panther trailer had just dropped, but it had been on my list.
If you don’t know and refuse to do your own Googling, Afrofuturism is a sect of science fiction that focuses on black history and culture. From music (Janelle Monae), to movies, (I already mentioned my new favorite Marvel move Black Panther, right?) to TV (Luke Cage, I think counts. I don’t know, I’m out of my field here), to books. Which brings us to the headline, finally.
Having no clue at all where to start, I reached out to my friend who runs Black and Bookish for some recommendations. She enthusiastically tossed out a list of titles, and I chose Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti because it was the shortest (don’t judge me, I’m very busy).
I hate the part of reviews where we need to draw the plot out, so I’ll be brief: Binti is the titular character and truly brilliant. The first of the Himba to be accepted to Oozma Uni (prestigious space college), she eschews tradition and risks familial and cultural ostracization by leaving home to attend. En route, the ship is attacked by the Meduse, severe and warlike jellyfish people. I don’t want to say more for fear of spoilers; this book clocks in at a brisk 96 pages so if I write too much more, mystery may be sacrificed.
(My confession is coming soon, it’s just not quite relevant yet)
What struck me most about this novella is the brisk pace. Sure, I chose it because it’s short because technically I’m still only halfway through House of Leaves (four years and running), but Dr. Okorafor somehow manages to pack EVERYTHING in to those 96 pages. Binti is a full character, strong, smart, young, and scared. The Himba culture is distinct and you understand at least enough of it to appreciate Binti’s reactions to it. The world-building never feels rushed or foggy, everything is clear and the borders and rules always defined. We even have time for a brief flirtation with a boy between leaving Earth and trying to survive an alien attack.
I read a lot, and I had never read anything with this much efficient flavor. Short but informative, simple but intelligent, challenging but familiar. It’s difficult to explain exactly what I mean, because my experiences with books is unique to me, as yours is to you. Also, maybe you haven’t read Binti yet, so we don’t have a common frame of reference.
I know that I basically just wrote “it’s hard for me to review this book because book reviews are highly personal and subjective in my opinion” so why did I even bother writing this article?
Confession time: This is not a book review. Reviews are, to me, someone paragraphing a plot, then thumbs up or downing. If you want the plot, Wikipedia. If you want a thumbs up or down, read the thing. Or watch the thing. Or eat the thing. A review doesn’t really help me. This is not a book review. This is me JUMPING UP AND DOWN SCREAMING AT ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN TO READ NNEDI OKORAFOR’S BINTI SERIES!
THAT’S RIGHT! IT’S A SERIES. BINTI: HOME IS EVEN BETTER THAN BINTI. I CAN’T EVEN TELL YOU WHY BECAUSE IT WILL SPOIL BINTI, BUT TRUST ME IT RAISES THE STAKES WHILE CHANGING THE GAME AND LEAVES YOU ABSOLUTELY STARVING FOR MORE!
WHICH IS PERFECT BECAUSE BINTI: THE NIGHT MASQUERADE COMES OUT JANUARY 18TH! HOW IS THAT FOR A TITLE?? EACH BOOK’S TITLE GETS TWICE AS LONG, AND THE BOOKS GET LONGER TOO! IT’S LIKE THE ACT OF READING EACH STORY BECOMES MORE INTRICATE AND COMPLEX AS THE CHARACTER’S LIFE BECOMES SO!
And so my book review is revealed as the free advertisement it was from the start. I cannot recommend these books enough. If you like science fiction, or books by and about women of color, or you want to see what Afrofuturism is all about, or you want to read something really satisfying and chewy but don’t have a lot of free time, then READ BINTI!
“We prefer to explore the universe by traveling inward, as opposed to outward.”
― Nnedi Okorafor, Binti
Dr Okorafor is also writing a Black Panther story arc for Marvel comics, and her 2010 novel “Who Fears Death” has been picked up by HBO. You can also read some of her short fiction for FREE on her website.
Some of those things are scripts he wants to produce or sell.
Some of those things are articles for this very website.
Many of those things are scripts for The Theatre of Tomorrow, a sci-fi anthology audiodrama.
His favorite food is still cheese pizza.
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