I hated the first thing I got from a list of must-read sci-fi/fantasy series; I was not optimistic about the second. Thankfully, this one turned out well. The only problem? Binti is actually a novella, and way too short. I somehow ended up with a copy of the first novella, not the series of three bound together.
The premise reminds me in some ways of Black Panther. Binti is a Shuri-like math prodigy from an isolated culture who sticks largely to old ways of living and belief, while at the same time “obsessed with innovation and technology”. Binti is so good at the family business, a math-based practice called mathematical harmony by practitioners called“Bitlous”, that she is accepted to a prestigious inter-galactic university, and decides to accept and attend; this means she must sneak away from her family and friends, and leave the only way of life she’s ever known. On the way, she encounters the Meduse, sentient jelly-fish with a long-standing feud with the Khoush, who appear to be a majority human Caucasian-esque tribe. The Meduse attack her ship, kill a lot of people, but it turns out Binti can communicate with them, and ends up acting as an ambassador between the Meduse and the university, with which the Meduse also have a problem (the university has the tentacle of their leader who would like its body-part back).
The idea of the conflict itself and the Meduse as a species are interesting enough that it’s too bad there wasn’t more information about them as a species or as individuals. Only one is even given a name and much personality, Okwu. It (?) and Binti eventually start to understand each other. The description of the university itself is vague, yet both in concept and setting the university is pretty important, so again, more info would have been nice. The conflict between the Meduse and Khoush is generically described, even by the Meduse, and given its prominence in the general conflict, again, a little more information or detail from at least the Meduse side would have been helpful. The problem isn’t length or lack of detail; it’s really more in the world building. The narrative is basically all plot and action, and without more background, even the plot isn’t as developed as it could be.
I’m definitely seeking out the rest of the series, but hopefully there will be more to the story than just story. There’s so much potential here, I’m just really hoping it doesn’t get ignored.