BINGO – Star
Binti runs away from her home, her family, her people, and even her planet to attend school. She is hesitant to leave even though she knows there are incredible opportunities waiting for her at Oomza University. With only a jar of otjize, a clay mixture from her community that she rubs over all of her skin and hair, her edan, a piece of ancient technology she discovered in the desert, and her nearly magical ability to see and grab mathematical equations, Binti steps foot on the ship that will take her to the next wonderful phase of her life. Except along the way the ship is attacked by the Meduse, a group of jellyfish-like creatures who have a historical and deep-seated hatred for most of humanity. Binti is the only survivor and must figure out how to survive the rest of the trip to Oomza Uni without also being killed by the Meduse.
Okwu steps forward as the liaison between Binti and the rest of the Meduse on the ship, and there are truly tense moments between it (the Meduse don’t have gender) and Binti that were wonderful to read. The Meuse are a cold and violent group of beings that they openly and proudly discuss. Binti is a peaceful person who just wants to survive. Equally as compelling is Binti’s internal struggle between the way-of-life she has always known and learning to step out on her own and break those traditions. Not only was she having to reconcile breaking tradition by simply leaving she is now figuring an entirely new situation and how she fits into the larger universe that she is now experiencing.
This is a novella that I actually wish had been a novel. There are huge swaths of time that are glossed over. Entire days of surviving on a ship with an enemy at your door are explained away in one line or two, and I wish that we had the chance to see how Binti used her math and intellect to survive. I know this is not the genre of novella that Okorafor was writing, but Binti is such a compelling character that I wish we had more time with her in this setting.
Binti: Sacred Fire is a short story that picks up with Binti after she started classes at Oomza Uni. She is dealing with PTSD from the attack on her ship on the way to the university planet and struggling to find her place in a new environment without her family or community. She thankfully falls in with a few other oddball students who all very quickly settle into a friendship. They take a trip out to the desert far away from other students and adults to look over their shoulders at every decision they make. It’s a very touching short story that gives Binti some hope that she can still move past the horrors she’s experienced. Okorafor continues to excel at building the world and universe in which Binti exists. Each new race of being or custom is exciting to read and explore.