Binti is a mathematical prodigy – a Harmonizer – from a tribe, the Himba, that reveres its homeland so much that they don’t really leave their land, let alone the planet. But Binti wants to attend Oomza Uni, and as said Uni as actually a planet in itself, to do so she’s going to have to bid goodbye to not just her family, but her homeland too. Which she does, sneaking out in the middle of the night.
Binti soon finds herself on the ship to Oomza, amidst her classmates but still viewed as something as an outsider – the Himba are looked down upon by others, seen as sub-human – but not for long. An encounter with the Meduse, a hostile alien race, leaves everyone but her slaughtered, with her race and the sacred clay that she coats herself with working in her favour. Helped by an elan (some sort of old, not-understood device found in the desert) to understand the Meduse, they designate her as their ambassador to Oomza Uni; she must help retrieve the chief of the Meduse’s stinger from the Uni’s scientists, or everyone will be annihilated.
A very quick but intense story, it was interesting to read some sci-fi written from the viewpoint of another culture than mine (most of the sci-fi I’ve read to date fits firmly in the white and male camps), but I must admit that I would have enjoyed this far more had there been a little more meat on the story’s bones. That said, I’d definitely read more of Okorafor’s work.