Title: Binti: The Complete Trilogy.
Series: Binti #1-3.
Writer(s): Nnedi Okorafor.
Publisher: Daw Books.
Release Date: February 5th 2019.
Genre(s): Science-Fiction, Fantasy.
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆.
Nnedi Okorafor is a science-fiction, fantasy, and magical realism author who is best known for her Binti trilogy, Akata Witch series and Who Fears Death series. Winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, some of her work has recently been optioned for live-action adaptations and she has quickly become an iconic author who is sure to bring her fanbase fantastical stories. With a PhD in English, this professor-turned-writer unveils her talents to the world by fusing the past and future together and building beautiful and intriguing worlds with her manipulation of words. Drawing upon her Nigerian heritage and her trips to Africa, Nnedi Okorafor tackles some important themes in Binti through her intelligent and brave protagonist. Spanning over three novellas, she delivers a character-centric story that doesn’t shy away from important challenges in life, whether they are palpable or not.
What is Binti: The Complete Trilogy about? This brand-new collection contains Binti, Binti: Home and Binti: The Night Masquerade. It also withholds a brand-new short story called Binti: Sacred Fire for fans of the franchise to savour. These novellas and short story follow the adventures of Binti, a master harmonizer who has a knack for mathematics. As a young teenager, she flees her Himba tribe to give herself the opportunity to follow her dreams by accepting a scholarship in the prestigious Oomza University, a university deemed the best in the galaxy. However, by running away from her family, friends, and people, she forever taints her life as an outsider who will never be accepted back among them. Her determination hence transports her on a ride she’ll never forget that will solicit her best diplomatic skills in order to promote acceptance and open-mindedness among stubborn individuals around the world. Meanwhile, her endeavor leads her on a quest of self-discovery and brings her to try and figure out who she is and who she wants to be.
Throughout these stories, Nnedi Okorafor splendidly develops her protagonist and focuses immensely on her identity crisis and inability to find a home as her sentiments grow in various directions while her heritage scolds her for not fitting into the mold she was forced into. The way the story unfolds, while taking into consideration Binti’s lack of knowledge on her culture and the history of the world, is brilliant as the author feeds her with insight through concrete experience whilst giving the reader the time to indulge the world in which she throws us in. There’s no denying that her ability to blend real-life issues within a science-fiction setting is marvelous and subtly help make the dilemmas that Binti faces much more relatable for the reader. Her development remains the anchor to which the reader can grip onto while she smoothly lays out and expands her universe throughout all three stories. Even the included short story helps tackle more internal conflicts that Binti faces following a tragedy that she witnesses, giving us more reason to applaud the courageous feat that she accomplishes despite all the adversity she faces.
While there’s plenty to admire in what Nnedi Okorafor builds from the ground up in this series, I found myself stuck in front of multiple obstacles that didn’t necessarily allow me to fully adore Binti’s adventure. The first of many issues I encountered pertains to a particular massacre that happens in the first book and that leads to a very unlikely and odd ending where justice is far from served. This took away a lot of the series’ ability to immerse me. To top it off, I couldn’t completely connect with Binti as the issues that she encounters and laments about were too grounded in emotions—something I often struggle with when it comes to the young adult genre. In this case, she finds herself guided by feelings and they are drowned in impulsive actions. What ultimately leads this trilogy to slightly fall short is the balance, or rather the imbalance, in character development and world-building while tackling the themes that Nnedi Okorafor wants to present.
Binti: The Complete Trilogy is a wonderful collection that carries you away on a space adventure with Binti, her quest of self-discovery and her search for affinity in a world blinded by self-centered motives and xenophobia.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!