Book Review | Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor

book reviews


Binti Nnedi OkoraforIt’s only 94 pages, but Binti is the perfect size to read in an afternoon. The plot starts quickly, with Binti deciding to leave home against her family’s wishes. She’s special in more ways than one, which has earned her a scholarship to university. Deciding to attend makes her the first of her kind to do so.

With that context given in the first several pages, readers know that Binti is special. It’s during an awful massacre that she comes into her full potential.

I quite enjoyed Binti because it had very familiar echoes of contemporary sociopolitical dynamics. That said, I’m not sure the science fiction dynamic was executed as well as I’d hoped. Yes, much of it took place on a ship with different breeds of people. There was even a theme of mathematics, throughout the novella. That said, it could easily have been the first traditional African student accepted to some elite college in a far and unfamiliar land.

That last point is necessarily a bad thing– at the very least, it illustrates how easy it could be to incorporate themes of diversity into science fiction and fantasy literature. Moreover, it emphasizes how lazy it is that people continue to write stories with themes of the “other” without taking the time to fully examine the parallels to real life racial discourse. It’s a great commentary because it’s not the least bit subtle.

Where has subtly ever gotten us, anyway?

You should all read Binti. It’s not long, nor is it a difficult read. I’d consider it a great starter book for people who would like to explore science fiction without delving into some of the more popular and intricate books & series. My only strong criticism is in the mathematics, which seemed haphazardly tossed in. People with much stronger mathematics backgrounds than this AP Statistics flunker have also found that aspect lackluster. Luckily, it didn’t detract from the story, which was otherwise well written with vivid characters.

Read Binti— soon– because it’s actually called Binti #1. Y’all don’t want to be left behind, right?

Have you read Binti? Have any more sci-fi or fantasy recommendations for me with people of color featured? Let me know in the comments! 

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20 Comments

  1. […] Okorafor, PhD | I recently read Dr. Okorafor’s Binti, which reminded me why I loved speculative fiction as a child. I’m looking to read much more […]

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  2. I listened to the audio of Who Fears Death and Binti either last month or the month before and really enjoyed both! I think Okorafor’s writing style lends itself well to narration, and it didn’t hurt that Robin Miles (who did the STELLAR narration for The Fifth Season by Jemisin) narrated Binti.

    I enjoyed Binti a lot – like you, I was hoping for a little more sci-fi goodness than what we actually got, but if this really is just Binti #1, maybe there’s more in store. 🙂

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    1. I haven’t read Who Fears Death yet! I hope to read it by the end of the summer, so I get a better idea of her work! But I felt the same way about the sci-fi goodness! It felt like she was testing the water.

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  3. Hahahaha, you can hardly imagine how impressed I am that you took AP Statistics, even if you didn’t do well in it. I believe I got a 2 on my AP calculus exam, and the fact that I passed the class at all was only down to the fact that my calculus teacher would give you the answers on all the tests if you asked him in a slightly anxious tone.

    I can’t wait to read Binti, also! I love a sci-fi novella, and even though Nnedi Okorafor is a slightly hit-or-miss author for me, I’ve heard basically nothing but good about Binti.

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    1. My friends were all math geniuses who skipped AP Calc AB and went straight to AP Calc BC. I have no such gifts, so I skipped out on Calculus as soon as I could!

      This is my first Okorafor book, so I’m hoping the other ones are even better. I’ve hears such great things about her that I think her other work will resonate with me.

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