Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor was an absolute delight to read and so much more imaginative and delightful than I could have predicted.
The story follows a brilliant young Himba mathematician named Binti traveling across the galaxy to attend a prestigious university open to the most brilliant peoples in space. On her way there, as happens with many stories set in space, Binti finds herself in the middle of age old war between an alien race called the Meduse and a human tribe called the Khoush. Being a master mathematician lends Binti a unique ability referred to as “harmonizing” — essentially the ability to unite in peace the world and it’s peoples around her.
To describe Binti as simply a sci-if would be doing a great disservice to how wildly imaginative Okorafor’s vision of Binti’s world is. Personally, I believe Binti is best understood as speculative fiction — Okorafor’s envisioning of what a human future could look like at both end of the spectrum of conservative inwardness of society versus an open, evolving culture.
In this book, Binti is most often referred to as a mathematician, but really she’s almost closer to a witch when considering ease of which she wields her inborn skill with numbers. A mathematician isn’t enough to describe her breadth, a topic of which Okorafor pays particular attention to. In fact, the Binti’s expansiveness is what Okorafor uses as a metaphor for Binti’s coming of age. After all, Binti: The Complete Trilogy is at its bones about a young woman coming into her own power and using that power to benefit her community as well as her self.
Binti: The Complete Trilogy was an escape into a world that felt very similar to our own — today, we struggle with accepting the “othered” and allowing our prejudices to cloud our experiences of fact, much like in how Binti struggles with feeling othered from her own insular society and family. There’s definitely moments that jerked a few tears, but ultimately, Binti is a story about the triumph that can blossom when we heed the call to adventure and work together towards peace.
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