Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Binti is an excellent novella by Nnedi Okorafor. Her previous fiction was vicious, and incisive, and demanding, and exhilarating; in this shorter format, she captures some of those features, but mostly the story serves as a small Petri dish, a focused look at one single character, the choices she makes, the way she finds of fitting herself into a broader cultural narrative that moves palpably around her, shaping her life and influencing her choices.

The short format made for a quick read, but the subject matter --- a mathematically-gifted woman takes a scholarship, and a spaceship ride, to the biggest university (planet-sized!), and encounters warlike betentacled space aliens --- meant that I inhaled Binti. It came out yesterday, and one of my horde of automated robots reminded me, so I purchased it. Then, 24 hours later, the entire contents were embedded in my brain, with no clear discernable moment where this happened. It read so quickly. It was a delight, with tension and drama and a narrator's voice that is firmly grounded in reasonable decisions and a knowledge of herself and her (extensive, impressive, but not superpowered) abilities.

I loved it.

This post's theme word is hecatomb, "a great public sacrifice (properly of a hundred oxen)." (Brought to you by China Miéville's Kraken, p. 483.) The other students served as a hecatomb for universal peace, or at least a lessening of universal, murderous animosity.

[Update: More specific, slightly spoilery review available at the publisher's website.]

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