Despite the best efforts of Ekho over at @_hex_libris, my introduction to Nnedi Okorafor’s work was not Akata Witch, though I do in fact have that book on my shelf to be read at some point in the (hopefully) near future. No, my introduction to Nnedi Okorafor came from my sister, who recommends books to me about once a decade and texted me about this book called Binti that sounded really good.
And, really, my sister does NOT recommend books to me. Mostly because she reads Austen and Bronte and knows I want no part of that. So when she does recommend me a book, I pay attention. And since I was putting an order for books through at Booktopia that week anyway, it was nothing at all to add Binti to the list. I didn’t even know what the hell it was about, but when I added it to my cart I thought the cover looked awesome. So spake the reader, gods help us all. Judging by covers!
I was quite surprised when my order came in: first of all, because it took literally two days to be delivered. What even is that magicianry?! But second, because Binti was tiny. Tiny, let me tell you. I was expecting a full-length book, but Binti is a novella! And thank goodness, honestly, because otherwise it would have sat on my shelf next to Akata Witch for who knows how long. Because, however, it is a novella, I started reading it within a couple of days of it arriving and let me tell you I read it all in one go and regretted not having purchased the entire trilogy at the same time. This book is brilliant.
The world in which the story takes place is a futuristic Earth, where (sadly) people are still split by ethnicity and tribe. Binti is one of the Himba people, and proud of her heritage for all she goes against her family in accepting a place at a prestigious galactic university. The book speaks beautifully about the history and traditions of the Himba people, and pays special attention to the practice of covering one’s skin and hair with ojitze, a mix of a particular type of earth and scented oils. This does turn out to be a hinge point of the plot, and I absolutely love it for that.
Binti suffers incredible loss on her journey, in many different ways. She also undergoes transformations both mental and physical, which are superbly written and considering the fact that this is a novella and there is a necessarily limited volume of words with which to work, Binti is even more impressive. The introduction of and interaction with other species is also wonderfully done; it isn’t ridiculously unlikely or improbable and you can honestly see this sort of situation in the future. You don’t even blink at some of the details of this book because it is written as though it’s perfectly normal. The writing is incredible. I absolutely cannot recommend this book enough, and I desperately need to find the time (and the money!) to get the sequels. In the meantime, I do have Akata Witch on my shelf….
Five star read, people.
Image credits: both inset and feature images were take by me, of my copy of the book (that I paid for).
Categories: Science Fiction