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Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti Ekeopara Zuzu Dambu Kaipka of Namib is the first Himba person ever to be accepted to Oomza University, the most prestigious university in the galaxy. She sneaks to the spaceport in the dead of night so her family won’t stop her, and struggles with the tension between her curiosity and her traditions (Himba people aren’t supposed to leave Earth). And then the ship that will take her to university gets attacked by space pirates…

Nnedi Okorafor has a delicious writing style, so Binti was an enjoyable, fast read. I like the idea that in the future, there will be different human cultures. Space opera writers seem to forget this. I also like that the aliens know something about humanity, but not everything. They’ve never seen such an exotic human female before.

I don’t like the coincidences. Binti does a great job fighting for her survival, but an old gadget she owns and her hair cream wind up saving her by accident. Binti, the pirates, and the university all forgive old wrongs too easily.

Binti is a novella, so I think Okorafor is rushing to put too much story into too small a word count limit. The space pirates part isn’t even the good part. Binti’s emotional journey towards being both Himba and a college student is. Binti should have focused on Binti or added more words to lay the groundwork for the bargain she reaches.