Well, I knew after I had finished the second novella in this trilogy that I’d be getting to the third one sooner than I’d made it from book one to book two. Binti ended with a nice little wrap-up, making it easy to be satisfied and step away for a bit. But there was just enough of a cliff-hanger at the end of Binti: Home that I really wanted to see how things concluded sooner rather than later.
“But couldn’t you be broken and still bring change?”
In this last installation, Binti is still on her home planet, having just learned quite a bit about her own personal ancestry, abilities and ancient alien visitors to Earth (and what they’d left behind). She’s traveling back to her people, the Himba, alongside her new friend and guide Mwinyi, to try and prevent yet another clash between the Meduse and Khoush people (her efforts from the first book not being quite enough, apparently). Between receiving some devastating personal news and being faced with severe lack of support from Himba elders, Binti does her best to prevent war on her own, with some mixed results but an overall coming together of peoples that is her specialty/trademark as a harmonizer.
There’s not much more I can say, so I’ll just repeat it one more time for the record, Okorafor’s world-building is top notch. In such short order she sets up an environment and history and an ambiance that just feels so full. And now that we’re in the third and final novella, the characters have really been more developed as well, both as far as their own selves and the way they interact with others. Binti’s connection to her people, her loyalty and strength of feeling for them, which has been clear from the very first page of the very first book, is still central to the story. But as we’ve seen with the passing of time, her role as a harmonizer puts her in a position to reach out to, communicate with, and moderate between peoples in a way that most others cannot. It’s such a difficult role for someone so young and so newly exposed to the world, and yet Binti holds her own with aplomb (and her coming-of-confidence in this way is inspiring and wonderful to witness). She is so clearly adept at her role, as we see species after species and tribe after tribe accepting and protecting her. Realistically, it only takes the one tribe/people that doesn’t acknowledge her to bring things to pieces, which is both authentic and difficult to read. Despite all her efforts on others’ behalf, and especially in the face of her own trauma, she is not able to achieve all the peace she wants. And yet, what she is able to do, again especially considering her own sacrifices for it, should not be minimized (and is not, by those closest to her). It’s such an important message about our own efforts, in our own lives. That no matter how small or insignificant (or large and affecting, as the case may be) they seem, or how short of the mark of our actual goal they fall, each little bit brings us closer to that better end place than we would have been otherwise, or saves something that would otherwise have been lost. And that isn’t, should never be, considered failure.
This moral, if you will, that is exactly paralleled in real life in so many ways, is just another example of Okorafor’s genius. She is able to make such large insights into broad-sweeping and common, yet completely profound, cultural interactions. Her specialty throughout, which is on display so focally here at the finale of Binti’s story, is the exploration of conflict based on perceived differences and proving the falseness of that basis/those biases, in various ways. And it’s done smoothly, simply and unequivocally. Finally, I just want to applaud the ending – one that shows that while not all the conflict has been avoided, and there are still challenges and growth to come, there must also be a space for enjoyment, recovery and personal care, however that looks. There is no grand-perfect-finish line to any true issue, because there is always, and will always be, room to be even better. It’s a constantly evolving goal we should all embrace and strive for, but in a way that allows for celebrations of successes along the way. And that message too is strong and beautiful in the way Binti’s current tale ends.
A few other notes – there were a number of emotional roller coasters in this final book, so be ready for that. There are definitely a few plot points that, at least for me, felt like they left off a bit unsatisfactorily (mainly, the story of the reason for/purpose of Binti’s edan) or just we never fully explained (or were explained away too easily). They were minor, in the overall scheme of things related to my enjoyment level with reading this story, but they were there.
Recognizable in many ways and escapist in many others, this space-based sci-fi novella trilogy is truly something special. Okorafor’s imagination and writing skill are fantastic and I loved traveling alongside Binti and seeing her world expand and evolve through her own eyes, and the eyes of those who loved her. Entertaining and full of key moral lessons in equal measure, I was really into this entire trilogy and overall quite happy with the way it ended here.
“Beauty does not need a reason.”
“Everything is so complicated and connected…”
“I left because I wanted more […] I was not leaving my family, my people, or my culture. I wanted to add to it all.”
“I do not want to see my homeland and people destroyed by a stale ancient irrational fight between people who have no real reason to hate each other.”
“Death is always news.”
“…so this blend is what makes you, you. So you are different from what you were born as, certainly. But as I said before, you’re healthy.”