4 out of 5 Secondary Stars
This is the 2nd installment in the Binti Novella Trilogy. If you want to see the first one, look under “Binti” on my All the Reviews page.
This is a great follow up to Binti. In my review of the first, I talked about how I had some problems with the way things went down, and I’ll get my quibbles out of the way. Basically, the terrorist attack on the Third Fish, which ended in an entire spaceship’s worth of people being brutally murdered, and a whole Earth-class of children headed for University wiped out, meets with no repercussions for the ones who performed it. It’s just, ah yeah, we took your chief’s claw. Sorry. Our bad. Here it is back, and we’ll just accept this brutal murder of all these people. Yeah.
This installment begins with Binti’s emotional turmoil after this. Despite her friendship with Okwu, the juvenile Meduse who was taken in as a student … in return for … whatever was supposed to be done about mending fences between Oomza Uni and the race that slaughtered the entire Earth class for that year…. Binti is traumatized. She’s clearly suffering from PTSD and feels “unclean”. She has moments of rage that she can’t contain, and culturally, that’s not unacceptable for her. She was transformed by what happened – not just emotionally but her hair was changed into Meduse-like tentacles. Now, if you’re like me, you figured out right away what was wrong with her, and it was irritating that she didn’t. That aside, Binti decides she has to go back home and make peace with her family and herself by going on the pilgrimage that adult women make when they’re ready. But is she? And will she be accepted?
Oh, and she’s taking the murderous Okwu with her. It’s going as her friend, but it (yes, the pronoun used for the Meduse is “it”) has trouble not getting into fights in the University. How will it handle being in the midst of the Khoush population?
Basically, problems aside, this is delicious. Instead of interstellar terrorism, we go back home and get more of the meld of cultural, spiritual, and sci fi tech fantastic-ness, which dominated the first 1/4 of the first one. I loved the world. I loved the history. I loved Binti’s horrible family. Yes, horrible family. Man, they come for her on just about all sides. It’s vicious at times, but her mom is like a warm hug and her dad is gorgeous light. It’s her siblings and friends that can go suck a bag of well, you know what. But I also kinda loved them, too, even though I didn’t want to. The writing was beautiful and the ideas about family and home and knowing yourself are throughout. Home is definitely the main theme through the story.
The world opens up even further for us. Binti has struggled with her identity as she now has the tentacles of the Meduse instead of hair. Well, she’s not done struggling with that, because along comes her grandmother. She doesn’t know where she belongs among the Himba now that she’s left and come back – they have strict gender roles and expectations, everyone tells her she’s being selfish and ridiculous. But there is another part of her ancestry out in the desert. She finds out more about her past and her edan – the mysterious piece of technology she found in the desert as a young girl. I loved the inclusion and function of the edan, how it’s this thing of mystery and its function has been slowly discovered through the two novellas. I was initially wondering, in the first book if it would be something as common as an iPhone or a Rubix cube…. 🙂 but it wasn’t. Of course, you know that, since you shouldn’t be reading this if you haven’t read the first one. Binti learns more about herself and her ancestry, going farther back than modern history.
This was longer than the first, but I still feel like both of these could have been full length novels. There is a lot of telling rather than showing and some shortcuts. What I love is the rich cultural backgrounds – it’s not like the earth is one race of people because… guess what? It ain’t. Other planets most likely won’t be either. When you read the default straight/white sci fi books, there is rarely religion or spirituality and culture isn’t discussed – it’s the aliens culture that is discussed, as if culture is foreign. Which is something to think about….
At the end, we do go back to the dangerous juxtaposition of alien and human interaction – but it felt like that should have been saved for the beginning of the next one. This one was good enough to stand on its own without a cliffhanger. This series really is wonderful, despite my few quibbles and I am eagerly awaiting the next one.