For his flowers are as real as they are all the time …

Why hello there, bloggity! I have a little review for you! Today, I’m reviewing Nnedi Okorafor’s novella, Binti, which I read and enjoyed. There will necessarily be spoilers, because I don’t think I can talk about this without them.

Binti is SF, set in a future where Earth is one of many planets that have interstellar travel. Our protagonist, Binti, is from a Namibian group of people called Himba, who live in a desert area and are known to use a mixture of clay and flower oils on their skin and hair called otjize. (Water is scarce, the climate is hot, and it’s a way to take care of their skin. This part is not fiction, the Himba people do this.) Binti’s family are talented mathematicians who do something called harmonizing. They make harmony through math, is the best I can tell. I’m not sure I entirely understand how it works, but I was willing to go with it. Binti’s family, and the people as a whole, do not leave home, or their land. But Binti has been accepted into an interstellar university, and she decides to leave home against everyone’s wish.

She feels lonely and alone and mocked at first, but she starts to make friends, human and otherwise, on the (living, which is neat) space ship that is taking her to the university.


The ship is attacked by a group of sentient creatures called Meduse. Binti is able to survive using an artifact she found near her home, that she doesn’t understand, but everyone else around her is slaughtered. She makes her way to her room and locks herself in, terrified and grieving. After a few days, she uses math and the artifact to communicate with the Meduse. She learns they think humans are barely sentient, and that they have come to use the ship to get into the university to attack it and regain something that was taken from them. One of the Meduse who is injured touches Binti’s skin with the otjize on it, and is healed. They want the otjize, but she’s only made so much for her journey, and a Himba without otjize is naked and not Himba anymore, so she doesn’t want to lose it. Binti calls on her Himba and harmonizer heritage to try to negotiate with the Meduse to save both them and herself, and the people of the university. She is irrevocably changed in the process.

This story is fascinating and compelling in many ways, although I found a lot that would kick me out of it. I didn’t understand about the math so much, and I’m not certain how much of that is that it’s math, and how much is that it is only explained so far. (Although, if it were explained, would it be relevant to the story? So there’s that.) I just kept shunting it to the “math = magic” part of my brain, and let most of it go. I found some of the writing style to be not as engaging for me personally as I usually like, but that’s a style preference, not a writing issue, and I liked the concepts, and the characters. Binti as a character is very compelling, but I found I didn’t understand about a lot of the world building around her. I’m used to some of that in any fantasy/science fiction story, because worlds are often half-explained and the reader has to extrapolate. But the living space ship and the math as harmony and the number of alien technologies were coming fast and furious and I didn’t quite feel like I had a good grasp on all of it. It felt like it needed more story to get all of those disparate parts in. But I still really enjoyed the story, so I think it’s partly my own preferences for a novel-length work that makes me feel that way. I just wanted more information, and felt like there wasn’t time to get it.

So, basic tl:dr for those who wanted to skip all of the spoilers – Binti is a very intense storyline in a compact package, with a lot of high concept world building that is mostly off screen, so you have to be willing to go with the flow. The character of Binti is wonderful, and I wish I’d had a bit longer with her. I want to know more about the universe that Okorafor built, and more about how Binti is going to fit into it. But it’s not an easy read, although it is a quick one.

Post title is from Dar William’s “Mark Rothko’s Song”

As lightning plays along the wires and you wonder…

So, uh. Hi. My September plans for posting did not work, it seems. Do you remember way back in September when you were a young and callow fellow, or at least, I was going to do all of these mini reviews? Well, I was. And I AM! I just sort of fell down a well a bit.

The well was kind of awesome, actually, because I got to run away to LA for a few days and play around with some friends. I went to the backer reward for ‘The Reading Rainbow’ project that LeVar Burton put on, so it was “Men and Women of Star Trek” reading us stories. Seriously. LeVar Burton, Jeri Ryan, Brent Spiner, Kate Mulgrew, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, and several others read us stories, and we sat there and loved it! There was a photo op afterward, at which I was a complete dork and did *not* tell Jeri Ryan that I love her in all the things, but hey, I went, and I had a good time. There was also frolicking on beaches and the Santa Monica pier, and although I got a whopping cold as the wages of my vacationing, it was worth it.

And then, the next week, I got to see DURAN DURAN IN CONCERT! I was still sick (I’m still a little sick) and it probably made it worse, but I went to the Puyallup fair and saw my fave band in concert and they were F&$#ing FANTASTIC! I probably gave myself a whole extra week of crud, staying up late outside and screaming my head off. WORTH. IT.  100% Would Do Again. Seriously they are The Best band live. I mean, they’re awesome in studio, but they are a blast live and you should go see them if you can.

So … that was pretty much September. Work, vacation, sick, go to a concert, more sick, more work, and then it’s October.

The news of my own writing is this, at the moment: I am *not* going to be published with another small press at this time. I am working on the reversion of all rights to A Ragged Magic, and I will self-publish it once I have that to get it back out there for sale. If it comes to it, I will self-publish the rest of the series. We’re still working out that bit. But I should have ARM back up for sale soon. I’ll announce it when I can.

Beyond this series, I have a different series that I have half of the first book written on, that I would like to finish up and start shopping around. And I just today had a story hit me in the head and demand some work, so I may have to make some notes and get some ideas sorted so that it can shut up enough for me to get back to current projects.

The reviews I have planned for postingness Real Soon Now ™ are as follows: Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older. When a Scot Ties the Knot, by Tessa Dare. Uprooted, by Naomi Novik. The Book of Phoenix, by Nnedi Okorafor. And because October, Wild Ride by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, and the Carousel Tides books by Sharon Lee. I think we need some haunted (ish) amusement parks for October, don’t you? Yes, that’s what I thought you’d say. If I get to it, sometime this fall I also want to review/tout Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo, and the other Grisha books. Because yes. Yes. And I really, really want to read Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor and Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson. Which, of course I will, but will I get around to reviewing them? I will try.

But tonight, I need to get some more of my fiction writing done. I have these projects and these plans. Let’s do this, October.

Title is from “Secret October,” by Duran Duran. Did I mention I got to see Duran Duran in concert? Because I did. And it was awesome.