Binti is a talented 17 year old girl in Namibia who sneakes off her village without the consent of her relatives to study mathematics at the prestigiuous Oomza Uni at some distant planet. She has never left her village before and her folk, the Himba, are quite isolated. Some mysterious technology at the edge between fantasy and SF comes in – she is a so called „Harmonizer“, working on miraculous „Astrolabes“. She is confronted with lots of prejudices against her culture, including the habit of otjize paste, or jingling ankle rings.
A group of space terrorists, jellyfish-like Meduse, board her spaceship and she has to talk for her life.
Full of ideas – e.g. the Zen-like „treeing“ of mathematics, or a living spaceship in the form of a shrimp – and cultural background, a good bit of action, but lots of plot holes – especially when Binti encounters the aliens. I loved the optimistic view despite all of the confrontations which is a great diversion from all those dark dystopian stories that I read the last couple of months. Only the ending is in urgent need of better development and I’d have loved to see a bit more of character development.
I wonder if this novella will be expanded to a full novel, because several unanswered questions just call out for a couple more pages. I’d like to read more of this extrapolation of African culture to space.
Meta: isfdb. This some 50 page novella was published September 2015 by Tor.com.