72 points, 3 ¾ stars.
Binti runs away from home to attend the prestigious Oomza University. Her talent for mathematics makes her a desired student, and she wants to go. Her parents and her beliefs tell her not to. Yet she does anyway, and she finds more in space than she wanted. She wanted to be a student, but what she finds is the Medusae, a jellyfish-like alien, who attack her spaceship and all the consequences that entails.
“I’m not meant to stay here. You know it. You’ve always known it. I was always going out into the desert. You know? Because it’s huge, it’s vast. When I look back, the desert and space, they feel similar.”
I feel weird, but I didn’t really care too much for Binti. I really wanted to, all my friends liked it. In fact, I tried very hard to like Binti, I just couldn’t after the first novella. The story started out good enough. A bit Young Adult for my tastes, but I can get past that if I like the characters and I like the story. I was really interested about the aliens and the college, and cool things about the series. Everything should of worked, but just didn’t work together for me.
Binti Ekeopara Zuzu Dambu Kaipka of Namib is smart. Very, very smart. Her ability to do mathematics in her head has landed her a scholarship to the best school in the universe: Oomza University. She is Himba, a group of isolated traditionalists in a desert that doesn’t get much water. She covers herself with otjize, a red clay mixture, or else she feels naked – it is part of her culture. She is also young, and in some ways feels child-like, younger than she is supposed to.
After running away from home without telling her parents, who don’t want her to leave because of traditions, Binti heads to Oomza University. Only, on the way she encounters trouble. The jellyfish-like aliens, the Meduse, attack the ship she is on and kill everyone on board but her, because a mystical device stops them. And what they do to her is, in some ways (to her), worse. Yet they are able to make friends by the end of the encounter and become allies.
The thing I think the book does the best is follow up on what happened in that spaceship with Binti. See, she doesn’t just get over seeing the entire ship murdered around her. She ends up having some serious PTSD. She carries the guilt of a survivor, and she carries it with her always. It really improves the character.
The world is very, very weird. Like, weird enough that I was sometimes flabbergasted at what I just read. A lot of things happened and a lot of things were introduced that just weren’t really well thought out before they were poorly introduced. Key parts of the plot just didn’t work right because things just didn’t make sense in the face of what we had learned. A lot of time there wasn’t any follow through at all. I needed to be told much more about this world before I accepted it would be believable, and I just never got it.
The thing I disliked the least was her family. I hated them. I ran into the same problem in Binti as I had in The Grass People: the traditionalists are running things and refuse to listen to anything else. However in some ways, I felt like it was worse in Binti because the evidence is surrounding them, and they refuse to even look at it. They’re so wrapped up in their own rightness and their own persecutions, they look down on everyone but themselves. They look down on anyone of themselves who don’t follow exactly the right steps that they are supposed to do, too.
And that includes Binti, a young woman who just wants to learn. Her biggest crime is learning when they told her she couldn’t, where they told her she couldn’t. And for that they hate her. Including her own family. They tell her she will never have a future, that she will always be the least among them. And she believes them. And I hate it.
The end was just weird. The very ending didn’t really feel like an ending. But even before that, the climax just didn’t feel right to me. Dire plot happenings were repeated for feelings, but it didn’t work the first time for me, and it didn’t work the second or third time either. I’m just ambivalent about the whole book, and if there were more to come out of this I don’t think I’d read it.