Book Review: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

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Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti tells the story of a young girl off to the Oomza University, basically the galaxy’s finest place to play out the ol’ stoodent life. Being Himba, Binti hasn’t exactly had it easy and she’s the first of her race to win a place at Oomza. But as she makes her way out there, her ship is infiltrated by the Meduse, a bloodthirsty scourge absolutely intent on killing everyone onboard.

The first thing that struck me, reading Binti, was how sensuous it is. This is a novella that invokes all the senses all of the time: what our narrator sees, what she hears, smells, feels. For me, it’s this that sets it apart from many other survival horrors –and at its heart, that’s what Binti is: a survival horror story – it makes both the survival and the horror all the more vivid.

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Maybe that’s why this book stuck with me – I could see it, feel it, even taste it, in my head for a long time afterwards. I even dreamed about it, and those dreams were dangerously close to nightmares. It’s fair to call this a powerful read, therefore, in every sense. But while Okorafor hasn’t been afraid to amp up the tension or the gore in Binti, ultimately it’s a very beautiful and uplifting story she’s written.

Not to mention addictive – I read it in one sitting.

Binti’s had plenty of attention since being released, scooping up both the Hugo and Nebula for best novella. And while I’m often cynical about awards, in this case it’s easy to see the appeal. Simply put, there’s not a single person I wouldn’t recommend this to, nobody I can think of who wouldn’t enjoy this on some level – hell, every level. And that alone speaks volumes.

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