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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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text 2018-07-28 23:29
2018 Hugo Ballot: Best Novella
All Systems Red - Martha Wells
Binti: Home - Nnedi Okorafor
The Black Tides of Heaven - JY Yang
Down Among the Sticks and Bones - Seanan McGuire
River of Teeth - Sarah Gailey

This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so.

 

Novella is a length I tend to struggle with as a reader. Often I find them either rushed, or stuffed with filler. This year has several I enjoyed, though.

 

  • All Systems Red, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing) - 4 Stars. Top of ballot, one of my favorite novellas ever. The narrator is excellent.

 

  • And Then There Were (N-One),” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny, March/April 2017) - 4 Stars. A murder mystery at a convention where everyone is the same person. Another excellent example of the right amount of plot for the length. This works really well. I didn't even mind being ahead of the narrator in solving the crime.

 

  • Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing) - 3.5 Stars. Well written, but has some of my usual issues with serialized ficiton.

 

  • The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang (Tor.com Publishing) - 3.5 Stars. Great worldbuilding, but not as solid across all elements.

 

  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing) - 4 Stars. I am surprised by how much I liked this given how underwhelming I found the previous novella in this series.

 

  • River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing) - 3.5 stars. Great characters, but this felt incomplete. Like the first 30% of a great book, but not quite enough content to be satisfying.

 

So, obviously All Systems Red will be at the top. Followed by And Then . . and Sticks and Bones. Black Tides next, then Home, and River of Teeth. This is a very solid selection of novellas.  

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review 2018-06-23 03:18
Revew: Binti: Home
Binti: Home - Nnedi Okorafor

Undeniably well written and imaginative, but not a solid hit for me. I love that there are so many ideas this is practically bursting at the seams. But it ends in a very odd place. A place that feels more like the middle of a chapter than a break between serialized volumes. 

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