Binti Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Winner of the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novella!
Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.
Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.
If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself — but first she has to make it there, alive.
Praise for Binti
"With her rich, lyrical voice, narrator Robin Miles effortlessly moves among such emotions as anticipation, fear, resignation, and fortitude with just the slightest adjustments in breath. Her prodigious range elevates this short novella into a resonating performance that will linger long beyond its mere two-plus hours." – School Library Journal
"Binti is a supreme read about a sexy, edgy Afropolitan in space! It's a wondrous combination of extra-terrestrial adventure and age-old African diplomacy. Unforgettable!" — Wanuri Kahiu, award-winning Kenyan film director of Punzi and From a Whisper
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|Listening Length||2 hours and 30 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||September 22, 2015|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #6,385 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#47 in First Contact Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#192 in Space Opera Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#257 in Adventure Science Fiction
Reviews with images
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Genre: Sci-Fi, Afrofuturism
Purchased Copy: from Amazon
Awards: Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novella (2016)
Calvin Park spoke about this one over at one of the recent episodes of his Under a Pile of Books podcast; and since I’ve been trying to finish the last few squares for r/fantasy’s yearly bingo challenge, a book on the topic of afrofuturism was most welcome.
Sometimes, everything about a story is excellent – the voice, the worldbuilding, the protagonist – with the exception of one huge, glaring error, a detail overlooked in such a low-key manner that you might not even notice it at first. Then, once you’ve put Binti away, you pause, take a breath and consider.
That is when the final third of this 90 or so pages long novella falls apart.
But before I touch on this spoiler-heavy section of the review, allow me to offer credit where credit is due. Nnedi Okorafor’s respect for the culture of Binti’s people (which draws inspiration from the Himba people of Namibia) along with its infusion with mathematical knowledge make for a fascinating vision of a society both new and steeped in tradition. The way ideas such as mathematical harmony and “ancestral magic” as some call what Binti does, are presented, enrichens the world, and the internal conflict Binti goes through – between following into the footsteps of her ancestors and going after her own desires – plays out in an interesting way.
It’s an engaging read, which I finished in a little over an hour, having enjoyed many of the ideas within – some of them core tenets of science fiction.
Now, onto the SPOILER-filled part of my review, which illuminates the extent of the problem with Binti.
The Meduse, an alien species that counts itself as one of the enemies of the humans and has long warred with them, assaults a ship traveling towards Oomza University. On this ship is Binti, one of the dozens or even hundreds of students on their way to Oomza Uni. Out of all of them, only Binti and the ship pilot survive. Everyone else is slaughtered in seconds, all at once. Binti eventually manages to talk the Meduse out of their attack on Oomza Uni and comes to represent the aliens before the directorial council of the university. Together, they all come to an agreement that sees the stinger the Meduse came to Oomza Uni to reclaim returned to its rightful owner, and everything concludes with a peaceful resolution and the seeds of friendship planted between two old enemies.
So what’s the problem? Let’s look to the Meduse, and what they do here.
The following notion is a turning moment in Binti’s personal perception of the aliens: “Now I could never go back. The Meduse. The Meduse are not what we humans think. They are truth. They are clarity. They are decisive. There are sharp lines and edges. They understand honor and dishonor. I had to earn their honor and the only way to do that was by dying a second time.” That said, to ignore the fact that the Meduse killed a ship full of prospective students is ludicrous – and this is just what happens, when at the end of the novella, during negotiations, the professors of Oomza University agree to return the stinger of the Meduse leader on whose order the massacre is perpetrated; not only that, they demand one of the Meduse come study at the university. What of the slaughtered students? It’s as if they are forgotten by everyone involved – their deaths forgotten, too, by Okorafor, judging by the speedy resolution she offers.
Based on this alone, Binti, much as I enjoyed most of it, shouldn’t have won a Nebula award. This is a glaring mistake and though I’m very interested in the works of Nnedi Okorafor, to praise her work for such naivete goes against the spirit of science fiction. Look at Le Guin’s “The Word for World is Forest,” a SF Masterpiece which treats ; look at the conflict between terrans and the people of the Forest, and how it ends. When one side slaughters dozens or hundreds, there can be peace...but the kind of harmony Okorafor’s characters find after the shortest negotiations is an impossibility, which overlooks so much of the nature of humanity. Not the better part, perhaps – but a part of who we are, nonetheless. Voices should be crying out for justice and for vengeance; there should be words of righteous indignation spoken. But there are none – instead, there is harmony.
It is not earned. Binti’s growth and individual understanding of the Meduse doesn’t wash away the weight of what they have done. The stolen stinger, as fine a reason as it is to the culture of the Meduse for the perpetration of slaughter and the planning of a yet more grand massacre, is no excuse most anyone would accept. And that...that’s a serious overlook on the part of Okorafor, all the more shocking for the brilliant way in which she captures the culture of Binti’s people, and the work she does on the Meduse.
My score for this one is, regretfully, a 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.
The length of this book is fantastic, for those of us struggling with our attention spans post covid. Compelling, fascinating, I look forward to reading the rest of the series.
Interplanetary travel puts Bindi into a new realm, but she is able to use her skills and her upbringing to overcome obstacles and secure a good position at university. She makes new friends in unlikely places, and discovers more about herself than she ever knew. The story ends in a satisfying way while still leaving plenty of mystery to unpack.
The introduction of magic as mathematical knowledge and/or ancestral ability in order to manipulate electrical currents was an unexpected delight. It brought to mind the Navigators in “Dune” and their ability to fold space. The combination of traditional folklore with a futuristic twist is winning.
The otjize (a mixture of red clay, oils, and perfumes) is wonderfully symbolic of Binti’s heritage and her identity. And this, too, she fears she will lose. "If I couldn’t make otjize here, then I’d have to … change." The risk of losing that symbol spikes when she discovers it can heal the enemy Meduse. Will she have to give away all of it? And will that sacrifice purchase her own life? But the story suggests more than that stark simplicity: culture may not necessarily be tied to a single place. It is not necessarily rigid, but can be shared, even recreated.
As for the snag… (Spoiler Alert!) It is suggested that the Meduse have been at war with humans for decades. They hunt and kill humans. They are utterly dangerous. While Binti’s experience with them was terrifying and exceptional, the Meduse killed hundreds of people aboard her ship alone, and planned to kill more when they attacked the university planet. Yet… there was no reaction to that, no accountability, and no justification for that oversight from the Powers That Be.
Aside from that, the writing was captivating, managing to maintain the tension while exploring the deep notion of culture and humanity.
Top reviews from other countries
There is no shortage of brilliance in this story. The principle character, Binti, is a lovely wise fool: a brilliant mathematician who is nevertheless adrift in a universe she doesn't understand, because she has left her tribe - and had to overcome significant personal and social obstacles to do so.
The glimpses we are given on Binti's nation, planet and wider galaxy are fascinating jewels, but the story as a whole is something of an unripe fruit.
For example, Okorafor gives us the wonderful living shrimp-ships but, once seen, they basically become a generic spaceship that might as well be Enterprise or Galactica. The astrolabe is frequently referenced but no explanation is given of what it is or what it is for or why Binti's history as a designer of such things is important socially or technologically. And the whole story revolves upon a deus ex machina the author only barely remembers to tell us exists in time for it to become important, only to entirely remove its importance before the end of the story.
In terms of what I didn't like, though, none of that is really important. What left me unhappy with this story was the speed with which the narrative jogged from "these monsters have slaughtered all of my friends" to "this monster is my only friend". The logical conclusion of "I would have more friends if this one hadn't killed all the others" is never even approached, let alone explored.
However... Despite sounding like a hated this story, I really didn't. Binti herself is an utterly delightful character and the world she inhabits is equally beguiling. The problem, as I see it, is that Okorafor has packed a novel - and a good-sized novel, at that - into a novella, cutting away character development, deeper motivation and important chunks of what ought to be in the story in order to rush Binti to her destination.
I will still buy the next two - longer - sections of Binti's journey and expect to enjoy them a good deal more as this author gets into her stride. Maybe, one day, she will expand this novella to the size and depth of narrative that the story arc really deserves. Until then, this is a worthwhile read, but - sorry BookBub - not one of the 51 top scifi stories every written.
RAGDOLL RATING: 4/5 BUTTONS
What I thought...
My TL;DR above does not adequately or even appropriately describe what this book is about - but frankly that's why I'm not an award winning author. This book is about space octopuses murdering a ship full of people. But it is also (and more importantly) about a girl who leaves her people, breaks away from all her traditions to pursue an academic career. It is about family, and culture and all sorts of other important topics too.
It took me a little while to get into this book for one reason - Binti keeps talking about mathematical things, like fractals and equations and all sorts. I know nothing about maths, apart from the basics. I've heard of fractals, but the rest could be all made up or it could be real and I'm not sure which it is. However, once I decided that it probably didn't matter what exactly those little bits meant (I mean I don't know what 'wingardium leviosa' actually means, but it didn't stop me enjoying Harry Potter) I found story really clever and interesting.
I'll definitely be getting hold of the other two books when I get a chance.
Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!
From there, not much makes sense. Binti's genetic powers are hammered in without explanation, and there just isn't enough here to give a fully fleshed background as to who they are and why they are such a threat other than the whole killing thing. The conclusion feels just as rushed as rushed and forced with a complete about turn that made no bloody sense.
It's an interesting premise, but it ends up feeling poorly managed and like a disjointed set of scenes hiding something that could be better. I suspect if this was a full novel it might have worked better for me, but as it stands it just doesn't have the depth.
The first thing that struck me, reading Binti, was how sensuous it is. This is a novella that invokes all the senses all of the time: what our narrator sees, what she hears, smells, feels. For me, it’s this that sets it apart from many other survival horrors –and at its heart, that’s what Binti is: a survival horror story – it makes both the survival and the horror all the more vivid.
Maybe that’s why this book stuck with me – I could see it, feel it, even taste it, in my head for a long time afterwards. I even dreamed about it, and those dreams were dangerously close to nightmares. It’s fair to call this a powerful read, therefore, in every sense. But while Okorafor hasn’t been afraid to amp up the tension or the gore in Binti, ultimately it’s a very beautiful and uplifting story she’s written.
Not to mention addictive – I read it in one sitting.
Binti’s had plenty of attention since being released, scooping up both the Hugo and Nebula for best novella. And while I’m often cynical about awards, in this case you can see the appeal. Simply put, there’s not a single person I wouldn’t recommend this to, nobody I can think of who wouldn’t enjoy this on some level – hell, every level. And that alone speaks volumes.
There is so much in this that just gives a twist to something, and makes it different: mathematics as a mix of divination and foretelling, bound up with meditation; an alien culture and mindset, and the struggle to both interpret and understand it; a university in the space age, for all races and peoples; and a girl leaving her home, her culture, her land – yet carrying them with her, and binding them into her new life.
The story itself is simple, and sweet; a journey from home to a new place, a new adventure and all the emotions and trials that go along with it. It’s complicated by troubles during the journey, but Binit finds new strengths, ways around, new ways to think.
If you haven’t yet read this, and you like fantasy or sci-fi – read it. Even if you don’t like it, it will open your mind!