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review 2018-12-09 23:32
Book for Door 14 Hanukkah - "Binti Home" - love the writing - hate this publishing trend.
Binti: Home - Nnedi Okorafor

Let me start with a complaint so I can get it out of my system. I hate this emerging practice in Science Fiction to slice novels up into novellas and drip feed them to us.

I hated it with Murderbot and I hate it with Binti.

 

I was blown away by the first novella, "Binti" It deserved the Nebula and Hugo awards it won. It was a startlingly innovative novella about identity, about us and other, about fear and harmony, about how defining what it means to be alien also defines what it means to be human. "Binti" worked as a standalone, self-contained story.

 

It took two more years for "Binti Home" to reach us and, very disappointingly, it does not work as a self-contained novella. It's a sequel, so it can't be standalone but I did expect it to be self-contained. What I got is the second act in a three-act play.

 

It turns out it's a very good second act in what I'm sure will be an excellent novel but I wish the publishers had had the integrity to wait until the whole book was ready before publishing it. 

 

Ok, complaint over. 

 

There are lots of good things in this middle act of Binti's story.

 

It retains the freshness of the original novella. It doesn't reprise any of the previous action but carries straight on from where "Binti" finished.

 

It keeps the humour as well as the drama of the previous events and uses both to explore being alien. Here's what happens when Binti persuades Okuwu, an alien shaped like a massive jellyfish that moves through air rather than water an is always referred to as "it" to put cover its tentacles with  otjize, a mix of mud and oil that Himba women cover themselves with:

Covering them with so much otjize,Okwu told me, made it feel a little intoxicated.

 

“Everything is . . . happy,” it had said, sounding perplexed about this state.

 

“Good,” I said, grinning. “That way, you won’t be so grumpy when you meet everyone. Khoush like politeness and the Himba expect a sunny disposition.”

 

“ I will wash this off soon,” it said. “It’s not good to feel this pleased with life.”

"Binti Home" explores the issue of self and other from a new angle by following Binti's own physical and spiritual evolution from the Himba tribal girl she thought herself to be into something other and more than that.

 
When Binti returns home to restore her sense of identity as a Himba woman she is instead forced to confront the prejudices that shape her view of her homeworld and prevent her from seeing herself clearly. Binti's skill as a "harmonizer" is tested when she finds that it's her rapidly changing self that she needs to harmonize.
 

The tension builds. Revelations are made. Threats are introduced. Then the novella ends. Well, actually, it just stops.

 

So I'm going to stop as well. I have to go and read the third act, "The Night Masquerade", which I've just downloaded from the Kindle Store for the princely sum of £2.63.

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text 2018-12-08 17:39
Reading progress update: I've read 28%. - happy aliens who aren't happy about it.
Binti: Home - Nnedi Okorafor

One of the things I like about Binti is the exploration of what "Alien" really means and the discovery, along the way, of what "human" really means.

 

Binti is a young tribal woman whose tribe covers their skin with otjize,a mix of mud and oil that maintains their link to their land on Earth. 

 

Binti has persuaded Okwu, an alien shaped like a large Jelly Fish but moving through air rather than water and always referred to as "it", to put some on its tentacles. Here's how Binti describe Okwu's reaction:

 

Covering them with so much otjize, Okwu told me, made it feel a little intoxicated. 

 

“Everything is . . . happy,” it had said, sounding perplexed about this state. 

 

“Good,” I said, grinning. “That way, you won’t be so grumpy when you meet everyone. Khoush like politeness and the Himba expect a sunny disposition.”

 

“ I will wash this off soon,” it said. “It’s not good to feel this pleased with life.”

 

 

Okwu sounds like some of my French colleagues. Happiness is very nice as a temporary phenomenon, particularly when it arrives unexpectedly and without effort, but its meant to be transitory and pursuing it is pointless.

 

 

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text 2018-12-08 00:26
Reading progress update: I've read 20%.
Binti: Home - Nnedi Okorafor

Like the Murderbot stories, Binti was released as a series of novellas, three, in this case, that really equal one novel.

 

I was blown away by the first one, "Binti" and immediately bought the sequel, "Binti Home".

 

I then stupidly let it languish in my TBR pile.

 

I've dug it out for the Hanuka Door of the 24 Festive Tasks challenge because it's the second book in a series.

 

I'm having to run hard to keep up at the beginning of the second novella and I now wish I'd read them back to back.

 

Still, so far the freshness of the original Binti novella is still present and I'm intrigued to see where Binti will go next.

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review 2018-03-13 19:31
"Rosewater" by Tade Thompson - excellent Future Africa Science Fiction
Rosewater - Tade Thompson

"Rosewater" is a startlingly original piece of Science Fiction, set in Nigeria in 2066.

 

It's been a long time since I've encountered a powerful new voice in Science Fiction that combines new ideas with a distinctive storytelling style.

 

Tade Thompson takes a fresh look at the concept of alien invasion and how people in Nigeria would react to it.

 

His aliens are genuinely alien in how they think and behave. The concept of an alien-generated Xenosphere that enhances the ability of some humans in an almost supernatural way is original and intriguing. The society reacting to the aliens seems to be a plausible extrapolation of modern-day Nigeria.

 

Reading "Rosewater" reminded me of reading William Gibson's "Neuromancer" for the first time, way back in the nineteen-eighties:  the excitement of finding  and immersing myself in something so fresh it was overwhelming, something that subtly subverted traditional science fiction views on everything from what heroes do through to how people and technology interact; something which, while being innovative and strange seemed rooted in an understanding of how the world really works on a day to day basis.

Tade Thompson's Xenosphere is as revolutionary as Gibson's Cyberspace. His hero is not a hero at, just a man trying to stay alive and make sense of his gifts. His world is venal, violent and vigorous. It's a wonderful mix.

 

The non-linear storytelling moves effortlessly back and forth along the timeline, carrying current events forward at a pace while slowly revealing the past that shaped the main character.

 

Much of the strength of the book comes from the main character, an uneducated man, with a violent past, slowly losing his taste for the fleshly pleasures that drove his younger self, he has a distinctive thinking style, at once reflective and pragmatic. Here's an example of how he describes suddenly becoming aware that he knows something:

It is a certainty, not just a conviction, the way believing in God is a conviction, but believing in gravity is a certainty .

This is a book that is packed with ideas and violence in almost equal measure. It's about realism and struggle rather than optimism and escape.

 

-4

 

I think Tade Thompson is a talent to watch in SF in general and in the current wave of Future Africa Fiction in particular.  I'll be checking out the rest of his work.

 

Here's an  interview with him in Interview in Short Story Day Africa

 

 

 

 

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