Friday, March 16, 2018

Science Fiction: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

Today I will be continuing the Binti series by Nnedi Okorafor with Home, its second installment. The first book introduced us to Binti, a determined young Himba girl who ran away from home to attend Oomza University. Now she must come to terms with the full ramifications of her decision and how it has affected her family. And just like with any series, I must issue a major spoiler alert for anyone who has not read the first book.

The Situation: It was a year ago that Binti left her desert home on Earth to attend Oomza University. But it has also been a year since she witnessed the death and massacre of her friends aboard a ship; a year since she was declared a hero after negotiating peace between the Khoush and Meduse; and a year since one of the Meduse, Okwu, was allowed to enroll in the university with her. Binti still has nightmares of that stressful event, and it seems that not all of the Khoush have accepted Okwu as a friend to their people. Despite this, and any anxiety Binti may feel about seeing her family again, she has decided it is time to return home and complete her pilgrimage. She is convinced this is what will bring her peace and allow her to continue with her life, and that it is important Okwu comes with her as an ambassador for the Meduse.

The Problem: While Binti's family is certainly pleased to see her, they have not made peace with her decisions and what she did a year ago. Plus, the presence of a Meduse on Earth is immediately unsettling to most of the people who see it. It seems Binti's family is insistent on making her feel bad for deciding to choose her own path, instead of following in the path they chose for her as a master harmonizer. On the night before she is to leave on her pilgrimage, Binti sees something only male Himbas are supposed to see, causing a group of the primitive and much derided Desert people to show up. They came to see Okwu, but also to take Binti for the night. With nothing going as she felt it would, Binti realizes there are more changes to come, even though everything is already much different than she thought it would be.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a science fiction novella that I assume takes place in the distant future, though just like the first book, no specific year or time is named. Home takes place one year after the end of Binti, with the heroine now settled into her studies at Oomza University, though she is still mentally suffering from the events that happened on the ship that brought her there. Now we see Binti return home, allowing the reader to meet her family for the first time, while also seeing how the people on Earth react to the presence of a Meduse. Binti is once again forced to closely examine who she is, as her belief's about her own identity are challenged in ways she never imagined possible. Non-Himba people expect her to be one way, while her family expects something else, she has her own ideas, and the appearance of the Desert people complicates things even further.

My Verdict: While this second installment certainly expands on the world that was introduced in Binti, I found myself annoyed and a little mystified at how naive Binti herself proved to be. Having spent a year away from home after running away, Binti is completely taken aback that her family would have anything other than kind and welcoming words for her upon her return. Also, she is continually surprised when anyone has a negative reaction to the appearance of her Meduse friend, when throughout history the Meduse have been at war with the Khoush, and therefore in their minds, the entire human race. Furthermore, I find it hard to believe that she can so easily befriend a creature that once was resolved to kill her, and is still quick to resort to violence and war. Her shortsightedness is a cause for much of her grief, and she never seems to quite grasp that she cannot choose her own path and make everyone happy.  That being said, the world-building in this novella is incredibly well done as each setting is vivid and well thought-out, as is each new species or race of people. The story itself can be a little all over the place, with the introduction of new things coming on suddenly, making them seem like more of a plot device. Overall, this is a good follow-up to the first story.

Favorite Moment: When Binti realizes she has plenty of prejudices of her own.

Favorite Character: Binti's mother seems to be the most gracious of all of her family. She may not approve or understand what her daughter is doing, but she at least manages to not make her feel worse about everything that is happening. 

Recommended Reading: The Sea of Ink and Gold series by Traci Chee currently only has two books out (The Reader and The Speaker), but it follows the adventures of Sefia as she looks into her past and her family, ultimately trying to find out who she is and what she was meant to be.     

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