In January I woke up to find Binti: The Night Masquerade downloaded onto my kindle and I was so pumped (pumped is not a word I throw around lightly). I was eager to dive back into Nnedi Okorafor’s world, I wanted to know what the Night Masquerade was, I wanted a conclusion to the war, I wanted to delve deeper into the complexity of Binti’s dual heritage and her struggle to come to terms with her identity. So I set aside a few hours out of my day (not too difficult, as most of my time is dedicated to procrastinating uni work) and sat down to read the latest installment full of anticipation.
Binti: Home left Binti in a bind, war was being declared, she was travelling across the desert with the knowledge of her new family to save her old family and her adopted family, and the clock was ticking. What a cliffhanger right? On reflection I think Home is my favourite installment of the series.
I don’t know if I built it up too much, but by the time I finished reading I was a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I loved this book, and I love this series, but I had a few, not even problems, but thoughts about the ending that have kept me up at night so here goes.
So towards the end of the novel Binti calls upon the ancient, awe-inspiring gifts of the Himba people and the oncoming battle between the humans and the Meduse hits pause to listen to her call for peace. I was drawn up into it, maybe a rational conversation could save the lives of black people and aliens alike; it presented such a beautiful and hopeful ideal for the future that I felt my heart expanding in my chest like when the Grinch discovers Christmas. Except unlike the Grinch, I got suckerpunched by Santa. Binti’s brave rally ended when mob mentality, fear, access to guns, and racism came for her in the form of an unnamed shooter from the crowd.
It got real. Painfully real. All that time, all that technology, all that pride, all that black girl magic and Binti was still shot. The war went on. I mourned with the characters, I came to gradually accept the harsh reality of the world, I remembered that as comforting and optimistic as these books had been, the world was still a horrible place and would still be in the future.
Binti’s body was placed in the child of the living ship that Binti travelled to Oozma uni aboard, the child of the ship where she watched her peers die.
THEN BINTI CAME BACK TO LIFE
I was relieved and happy and cheated. One of my biggest pet peeves in any kind of SFF book, film, radio play whatever, is when characters don’t stay dead! The emotional journey the reader takes with the death of a character is undermined and made a little cheap when the character just comes back, and it felt no different when Binti came back. But on the other hand I was relieved that this strong, feminine, flawed character wasn’t just another black character that died.
What I’m saying is I’m deeply conflicted, but nonetheless I loved this book, I’ll definitely re-read the series, and I will read all the Okorafor I can get my hands on. For all my qualms, this finale has stuck with me.