Friday, March 23, 2018

Science Fiction: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

Today we have the conclusion to the Binti series by Nnedi Okorafor with book #3, The Night Masquerade. After the intensity of book #2, Home, I knew the final entry would have more surprises and adventures, as well as new species of creatures to meet. Again, spoiler alert for anyone who has not read either of the two previous books in the series.

The Situation: Binti is far away from her family when disaster strikes at home. Not only is her family there, but her Meduse friend Okwu as well. With Mwinyi as her escort, she begins to make her way back to her home, but is scared of what she will find there. Ever since leaving home over a year ago to attend Oomza University, so much has happened in Binti's world. There have been so many irreparable changes, so many reasons for Binti to be happy about her decisions, but also so many reasons for regret. And it seems just as she gets used to some new part of herself or abilities, even more is revealed about who she really is, and the learning has to start all over again.

The Problem: Things have turned out worse than Binti could have ever imagined. It seems the Khoush and Meduse have decided to once again war with each other, and the Himba people are caught in the middle. The only hope is for someone to negotiate peace, real peace, and Binti believes her skills as a master harmonizer can make it happen. Because of everything that has happened, The Himba Council is hesitant to trust Binti, but she must move forward anyway. As a female who has seen the Night Masquerade twice, she knows something big is supposed to happen. But when it comes, it is once again an event that no one was ready for, least of all Binti herself.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a science fiction novella set mostly on Earth, but also travels as far out as Saturn at one point. The second book left off with Binti and Okwu still on Earth after the former decided to return home from Oomza University and see her family. Binti is still struggling with what she has learned about herself, but is also slowly getting used to it with the help of Mwinyi, another harmonizer. Mwinyi's harmonizing seems to mostly center around communicating with animals and nature, something he uses to keep then safe on their long journey back to Binti's home. Identity is once again central to the story. The way Binti sees herself has to change with almost every passing day. And she must negotiate it against how others of different races and species see her. Another theme is that of prejudice and how we all suffer from it in some degree. And then there is the theme of war and how no one really ever comes out the winner.

My Verdict: I enjoyed this one more than I have the previous books, and I am kind of sad that we have come to the end of Binti's journey. While not everything was neatly tied up, and not every issue or conflict was resolved before the final page, The Night Masquerade is still a satisfying conclusion to an epic tale filled with adventure, war, struggle, and an incredibly vast amount of places and people that many imaginations have never encountered before. My only regret is that we do not get to see more of Oomza University. It seems to be a common comment that there is more imagination and creativity in the Binti series than in many full-length science fiction epics, and I completely agree. What Okorafor has accomplished is truly amazing. With the entire series coming out to around 400 pages, this is an easy series to get into and enjoy, and I recommend it to any lover of science fiction.

Favorite Moment: When Binti decides to move forward and take action despite the absence of the Himba Council.

Favorite Character: Mwinyi is smart, level-headed, and resolved. He sticks with what he does well and always uses his incredible gifts to help in a situation as opposed to hurt. He also knows who he is, what he wants to do, and where he wants to go.

Recommended Reading: I recommend The Wires and Nerve series by Marissa Meyer. It is a series that follows the events of the Lunar Chronicles with Iko the android as the main protagonist.

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