Saturday, February 20, 2016

Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor

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(Space Opera; Binti) Binti sneaks away from her home in a future Namibia so she can attend the galactic university. The Himba never leave home, so her parents disapprove, and the universe isn't quite ready for her either. (20,100 words; Time: 1h:07m)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended
Recommended By: Nebula Hugo Locus

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Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

The story is very clumsy. The dialog is generally weak, and too much of the story is told through narration.

The science is atrocious. Binti treats math as if it were a set of magic spells. At one point she and her friends "imagine the most complex equation and then split it in half and then in half again and again" as a meditation aid. There are other problems. The simple clay and oil mix she wears on her skin turns out to be a magic healing elixer for the Meduse.

But worst of all, the behavior of the people and the aliens is impossible to believe. The Meduse boarded a peaceful ship of young students and killed all of them except Binti. There's no way they would be met by negotiators at their destination.

There is simply no way to suspend disbelief for very long in this story, except right at the beginning.

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I agree with the rating and critique. I really didn't like the story's use of the words "mathematics" and "equations" in lieu of the words "magic" and "spells" to give it a bit more SFness.

  2. Agree completely and with EFWong comment. The sf discussion group I'm in read this a few years ago. Most of us were very surprised to react to it so negatively after hearing so much good about it. Many of us felt the transition from dreads to alien biological trait to be a stretch and an unfortunate choice.