BooksOfTheMoon

Binti: The Complete Trilogy

By Nnedi Okorafor

Rating: 3 stars

I wanted to enjoy this book more than I did. It had such a positive vibe on social media, and won a number of awards, that I was excited to get this omnibus for Christmas. Unfortunately, it just didn’t grab me that much, and I can’t really figure out why. I quite enjoyed the first novella, which had a sort of almost dreamlike feel to it. The killing of everyone on the ship and Binti’s survival feel like they’re being seen from a distance or through water. This means they don’t create as much of an emotional impact as they should.

The short story (Sacred Fire) and the second novella (Home) probably left me the most cold. In the former, it’s clearer that Binti has a sort of PTSD (not unexpected, frankly) and goes out into the desert to try and deal with it. We also see some of her classmates and some friends that she makes. In the latter, Binti decides to return home to Earth to complete a ritual to achieve womanhood, and brings her friend Okwa (the Medusa who had helped kill everyone on her ship) with her, to try and cement the peace treaty between them and the Khoush, the human tribe (country? Empire? It’s never made clear) that they had been at war with. But more importantly, she has to deal with her own family and the rest of her people.

This I had real trouble with: these people are so mired in tradition and desire for home that they viewed any attempt to leave as a betrayal, and a selfish move on Binti’s part, and one that meant that no man would want to marry her. I snorted out loud at that one. I understand a love of home, but to deny someone their desire to learn seems almost perverted to me, and left me feeling very cold towards them.

The last story, Night Masquerade had the most plot to it and was probably the one I enjoyed the most. Having just discovered that she has alien DNA in her (well, more alien DNA than she thought) Binti has to use her utmost skills as a master harmoniser to bring peace between the Medusae and the Khoush before her people are trampled underfoot by their war. And also discover the secrets of her edan.

I think one of the things that irritated me about the book was that Binti was too special. She was, by the end of the first story, a genius mathematician; a master harmoniser; a Medusae ambassador; wielder of the edan. And then by the end of the whole series she’s more than that again. It just felt a little too much. And I thought the reveal of the edan while being funny was a bit of an anticlimax.

Book details

ISBN: 9780756415181
Publisher: Daw Books
Year of publication: 2019

Lagoon

By Nnedi Okorafor

Rating: 3 stars

Three strangers find themselves drawn to Bay Beach in Lagos to make first contact with an alien race and find themselves, their city and their world changed forever.

This was an enjoyable first contact story set in the Nigerian city of Lagos. It’s not immediately obvious what a marine biologist, a soldier with a conscience and a rapper have in common, what brings them to the beach to become ambassadors for the Human race, but we learn more as the story goes on.

As it transpires, this isn’t a straightforward SF first contact story, as it adds some fantasy elements. At some points, various African mythological figures/gods appear and there’s a rather creepy road that literally kills and eats people travelling on it. These work oddly well, as you can imagine these things not being out of place in Lagos, a city whose energy and life spring from the pages of the book.

The aliens are a catalyst, and a bit of a deus ex machina, in the story. Their aims aren’t really all that clear, other than possibly wanting to settle on Earth, but they bring change with them, as their ambassador, the woman named Ayodele, repeats several times. Some of these changes are to bring the potential of our three protagonists to the surface and others seem like they could affect the world.

There are many threads left dangling at the end of the book, the narrator explicitly points this out, but this appears to be deliberate. I had wondered throughout what the rest of the world is making of the giant alien spaceship hanging over Lagos and the aliens entering it, and the narrator at the end implies that some people are going to be very unhappy about this and that the story must wait as it goes to join the fight…

This was an interesting and original (not to mention very Nigerian) take on first contact. The pidgin English was difficult to read at times, and I did have to make extensive use of the glossary at the back, but I found it a worthwhile read.

Book details

ISBN: 9781444762754
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Year of publication: 2014

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