A story about becoming yourself.
I’ve been really enjoying books by Nnedi Okorafor lately. Halfway through the collected Complete Trilogy, I needed to put the book down and heartily recommend it to y’all!
This is one of those books that feels like a teen book but is perfect to be absorbed by an adult. Like Okorafor’s other works, she works with established genre tropes to save time and allow us to enjoy getting to know her characters and the world building faster. As such, it’s really easy to slip into these books and feel like you’ve always been there.
Binti is a science fiction series, set in the future, with a young African girl struggling to harmonize what she knows she needs to do with her life against the expectations of her family and culture. It’s a coming of age story if there’s ever been one, and I think most people will relate to this, especially people who have left home or taken a life path different than that was accepted of them. The struggle to convince your family (and yourself) that you know what is right…while being aware that you’re just a kid and might not actually know everything…is something many of us has experienced, and Okorafor captures this conflict perfectly.
The characters are playful but yet realized. There’s a lot of conflict between the past and the future as Binti and her friend (of a race many humans have long been at war with) try to live in peace, but the adults (and even sometimes Binti herself) have trouble getting over the violence of the past.
A love for mathematics is deeply embedded into these stories. Don’t worry! You don’t need to have any understanding of maths to understand the story, it’s the characters’ love of maths which is key. Humans at this point have merged with mathematics to the point where they use numbers to meditate and even to create electrical charges like a superpower. For someone who is horrible with maths like myself, I’m fascinated by how much the character Binti needs math in much the same way as I need oxygen or art. It makes me want to see the subject from her point of view, even though that’s a challenge for me.
If you’re going to read Binti, do yourself a favor and buy the Complete Trilogy instead of the individual books. For starters, there’s a new short story snuck in between the first and second book which does such a fantastic job helping us understand the main characters and their universe, that I can’t imagine being without it. Then, because the stories are short and very congruous, you’re going to want to go directly from one to the other, so having them collected in one hard cover is necessary.