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Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor
Book Name: Binti: The Complete Trilogy. Includes Binti, Home, and The Night Masquerade.
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Publisher(s): DAW (US) Penguin Random House (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Release Date: February 5, 2019

What if space travel, other planets and prestigious interstellar universities in neighboring galaxies existed within our lifetime? If everything related to space travel and outer space was an everyday practice, then how would all beings coexist with each other? How would humans live on Earth with these opportunities? Would they take advantage of it, or would they remain on Earth? Who would travel into space and why? Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti (first released in 2015) asks those questions and answers them with a narrative so unique and captivating it makes you wonder if her world in space has a strong possibility of being real.

Binti (cover)As the novella swept the awards after its release—the Nebula Award (2015), the Hugo Award (2016) and the Nommo Award (2017) all for Best Novella—the author announced she was continuing Binti’s story. Fans received both sequels—Binti: Home and Binti: The Night Masquerade—in 2017 and in 2018, respectively. In 2019, fans were treated to Binti: The Complete Trilogy, which not only has all three novellas, but also a short story—Binti: Sacred Fire—which is an interlude between the first two novellas in the series. Okorafor’s collection presents Binti’s freshman year at a university in space.

Binti Eheopara Zuzu Dambu Kaipka of Namib is an intelligent mathematician and a gifted harmonizer who was recently accepted into Oomza Uni, the most prestigious university in the galaxy. However, Binti is Himba, a tribe who are content with tradition and normalcy. This means if Binti wants to attend Oomza Uni, then she has to do so on her own. She leaves her home, without her family’s knowledge or blessing, and boards a spacecraft to travel to college. When the spacecraft is attacked by the Meduse—an alien race who resemble jellyfish—during the voyage, Binti must rely on her knowledge, her courage and her mediation skills to save herself and to prevent a war from breaking out. She survives her ordeal, but it changes her in more ways than one.

As Binti’s story continues through the rest of the series, both readers and those close to her—classmates, instructors and family members—witness her growth as Binti goes through the transition from isolated adolescent to Master Harmonizer. During this growth, Binti learns to adjust to her new surroundings and lifestyle while coping with posttraumatic stress disorder from what occurred on the voyage to Oomza Uni. Then, she decides to return home and face her family after leaving them and being gone for so long. Throughout all of the internal and external conflicts, Binti proves herself to be the gifted harmonizer everyone else already knows her to be.

Binti - Home (cover)There are other characters who befriend Binti in this series; those from Oomza Uni and from her home shape Binti into the person she is destined to be. Her constant companion is Okwu, one of the Meduse Binti meets on her voyage to Oomza Uni. Another recurring character is The Third Fish—a living spacecraft—who represents Binti’s desire to travel. She becomes acquainted with other students at the university who help her survive her first semester. Yet, the characters who impact Binti the most are members of her family. When Binti does return home, she learns the full extent of suppressing her desires and the escalating threats of war.

Binti: The Complete Trilogy is a different coming-of-age story compared to other ones. First, the protagonist struggles to survive her voyage to the university. This includes her guilt of running away from home and her friendship with some of the other students, some of whom find her Himba culture to be strange. Next, is how Binti acclimates to life as a student while dealing with PTSD and culture shock, and clashes amongst both the staff and the student body. Then, there’s Binti’s need to return home in order to face her family and to follow up on her cultural practices, some of which are unknown even to her. Last, is how Binti demonstrates her intellect and her skills as a harmonizer and what that means for her and for everyone within her inner community. 

Readers will enjoy the Afrofuturistic world Okorafor creates for her characters. While space travel and interaction amongst other lifeforms is a reality, it does not mean the universe is without conflict and prejudice. Rivalries are the reason for the initial conflict Binti faces in the first story and continue throughout the rest of the trilogy. Not to mention, when Binti does return to her home to visit her family, she has to deal with the rivalries amongst the other clans and the prejudice amongst members of her family.

Throughout all of Binti’s journey, Okorafor understands such conflicts, divisions and prejudices are not resolved overnight. Not everyone is willing to accept change, not everyone wants to interact with someone else who is different from themselves, and not everyone is willing to admit they have flaws. The author makes sure within her worldbuilding of the universe, conflict based in reality exists, but there are those who are willing to look beyond those differences in order to form both friendship and understanding in the universe.            

Binti - The Night Masquerade (cover)Okorafor wrote a bildungsroman that is split between Earth, space, and a university on another planet. Yet, it is grounded in themes and issues all readers can relate to themselves. Why shouldn’t Binti attend a prestigious university? Why can’t Binti learn about her entire familial heritage back home? Why does everyone still threaten the Meduse, even though they’re more than the stereotypes everyone else wants to believe is true? What readers gain from the author is the idea that individuals should make decisions for themselves, especially if it is for the best for them (in the long run). Parents, professors and leaders don’t always know what’s best, but a combination of rebellion and respect can go a long way. Tradition can be maintained alongside progression.

Binti: The Complete Trilogy is about a young woman who decides to make her own path towards becoming the person she wants to become, while maintaining her identity. Sci-fi and fantasy fans who always believed that space travel is similar to swimming in the water will appreciate how the author came to a similar conclusion. And, with a television series in the works on Hulu, readers and fans might want to consider reading or re-reading this series before the pilot episode premieres.

Binti: The Complete Trilogy is about personal growth through experience and change, and how expectations depend on an individual’s, not those of others. In addition to the characters and the world (or galaxy) building, the author demonstrates how the future—particularly space travel—could become with more emphasis on evolution and other lifeforms. This is a series that will remind readers no matter how far one travels, they can find peace within themselves, and while harmonizing with all of the beings throughout the galaxy.


One Comment

  1. What an amazing review! Just added it to my TBR list. 🙂

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