So I finally set aside a little time to do some non-uni reading and managed to read Home the second installment in Okorafor’s Binti series (I believe it’s going to be a trilogy but I’m not 100%). On a side note because uni is getting on top of me I’ll only be reviewing SF here on my blog rather than SF and fantasy. If you want to read my thoughts on literally every book I read – though I can’t see why you would – hit me up on my Goodreads and add me as a friend.
Okay so back to Binti and why she is quickly becoming an SF character I can’t keep out of my mind. As you know I loved Binti and devoured it almost entirely. I loved the motif of her hair and her whole struggle with her identity, and those ideas have been artfully expanded by Okorafor in Home. In this novella Binti returns home with her newly acquired Meduse companion and her new tentacle like braids in place of her former (I imagine) beautiful hair. But it is during her return that she realises she is even more at odds with her family and finds a new family in her hidden heritage from a neighbouring tribe who accept her, whilst another neighbouring tribe begins rallying against her new alien bud. That’s basically the whole plot right there, it’s short but that’s what you get out of a novella.
What I really loved about this one was the discovery of Binti’s dual identity. As someone who is mixed race myself it is difficult to find my own struggles with identity reflected in literature, but there it was embracing me and telling me it was all okay. Not that I think the enjoyment of this novel is restricted to those struggling with racial identity, everyone struggles of course, but my struggles don’t get talked about often so I got a little giddy reading it. There is no definite answer to Binti’s struggle of identity throughout the series so far and I really admire that, there is no answer, harbouring dual identities is an ever-lasting life-long tug of war, and it’s presented beautifully here.
Another thing that blew me away about Home was that Binti’s spiritual connection with her mathematical studies and her number-loving induced “treeing” was explained so much better! In Binti it felt like an odd fact just thrown in as an attempt to add some subplot, but in Home the whole concept is really fleshed out and I really felt something. I’m not sure what I felt, but let’s say it was warm and fuzzy enough to keep me reading well into the night.
The final thing I want to address is the pacing of Home. Although it didn’t occur to me when reading Binti upon reflection I realised that the pacing was a little off. We weren’t given enough time to really connect with characters before tragedy befell them, and everything seemed rushed. This might be some biased judgement on my part as I do think it should have been a full novel but there you go. In Home thought Okorafor seemed to really hit her stride with her pacing and even when things did start to move too fast the characters acknowledged with a kind of fear that things were going too fast and that they were disorientated, which really helped deal with the shorter form.
Honestly, as much as I loved Binti, I feel like Home is where the story really comes together and I can’t see why it won no awards when its predecessor got a Hugo AND a Nebula. But what I really want to say is if you were in any way disappointed with the first book because of any reasons I outlined, know that it seems to be a series that really picks up as it goes along.