Book: Binti – The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
Getting to the end of the novella section for the Hugos. I am sure that you are aware that voting ends at the end of this month and may be wondering how I am intending to get it all done. Well, I am not to be blunt. I do intend to read through the Novellettes and the Short Stories though, I am currently blogging behind my reading (as I write this I am half way through the final Novella) so whilst my posts may end up being up after the Hugo voting has ended, I should have done the reading before then.
For the Novellettes I think I shall split them into two posts, review three in one post and then three in the other and one post for the short stories. I may then do a wrap-up of the Hugos and my voting as a whole and try and get all that scheduled before I run off to Dublin and WorldCon.
“Even back then I had changed things, and I didn’t even know it. When I should have reveled in this gift, instead, I’d seen myself as broken. But couldn’t you be broken and still bring change?”
In regards to this book, I will start off by saying that I have not read the first two. I did debate as to whether or not to read the ones that were parts of a series I hadn’t read but decided that since it was shorter I might as well give it a go and see how I got on.
The story follows Binti as she and her companions head back to her home to see her family and find themselves in the middle of a conflict between two people, one that will cost Binti a great deal even as she tries her best to find a way to stop it before it gets too out of hand.
It did take me a while to get to grips with the story, largely because I had clearly missed explanations of terms and such that will have come up in earlier books, leaving me quite confused in places. I will say that by the end of the story I had caught up on everything and it did make sense, but it was a little slow going at first due to my lack of context.
It’s certainly a very interesting setting, the magical mathematics reminds me a little of the Foundation series by Asimov, though the feel is very different. I do think I would have gotten a lot more from the book if I had read the others first and I do intend to go back and read them as I did still enjoy the story.
One thing that I found a little distracting was that Binti did come across as something of a Mary Sue type character in places. Now, I don’t consider this to be irredemable, people rarely complain when a male character gets to be all sorts of awesome without any real flaws so when a female character does, especially a woman of colour, in some ways it can be a good redress of balance and I think in this case I would count it in that category. Yes, Binti does have an impressive list of accomplishments and abilities (this is also the third book so I may also be missing vital character development from the earlier ones), but she does also make mistakes and is not entirely perfect.
Some more spoilery thoughts below the cut.
“If there was one thing I had learned in all my strange journeys it was that what would be would be and sometimes you wait to see.”
The main reason I didn’t give the book the full five stars was the fact that everything worked out a little too neatly for my tastes in places. Binti thinks her family is all dead and yet they have actually all survived and are helped out by one of her companions.
She herself dies at one point but because she is placed in a new ship with the right microbes in it she comes back to life but is now mystically tied to the ship. I guess that all threw me somewhat and was what made the character feel a little more Mary Sue. I guess I found that her grand sacrifice was undone a little jarring as a result and the ending itself felt a little bit unfulfilling, which is a shame because as I said I mostly enjoyed it.
I could have perhaps marked the story down more due to the things I didn’t understand at the start, but since they were all explained by the end and also because I felt that marking a book down because I hadn’t read the earlier ones felt cheap, I didn’t. Instead I did sit down and enjoy the ride of being introduced to the setting and the characters and seeing how it all worked out. I loved that the aliens did indeed feel very alien to me, this doesn’t happen as often as I would like and I am very curious as to whether or not this is the end of the series or if she intends to write more about the character going forward.
Either way I certainly did enjoy it, not perhaps as much as I loved some of the others, but it’s well written and I have been meaning to read the others anyway so this gives me more incentive to do so now.