Binti is a novella about Binti, mathematical genius and first of her Himbi village to be accepted to a prestigious off-world university. This is a big step in more than one way; the Himbi people do not leave their isolated village. This not being an old colonial fantasy it must be noted that the Himbi are not backward, nor primitive, and are in fact quite technologically apt and Binti was training to join her families technology business. But the Himbi do keep their own ways and said ways are seen as strange when Binti journeys afar.
She initially runs into some cultural friction when she joins the living ships that will take her to Oomza University; strangers touching her hair and pointed questions about the otijize rub on her skin. But there appears to be some hope in the future as quickly friends are made. Though short it is one of the better aspects of the book; a group coming together over their shared love of math.
Then the militant jellyfish (the Meduse) board the ship and the trouble starts.
It is a short and sweet novella with a satisfactory ending. Binti is an intriguing character and as said before someone I want to continue reading about. The early interactions between cultures then move to the true alien culture shock when the Meduse enter the picture (everything is relative after all).
But it is too simplistic to work on its own. The ending is satisfactory but it comes to easy. Binti is shown to be capable and her mathematical genius helped her cause when the troubles started but a few lucky circumstances had a larger effect; items in her possession when she boarded the ship proved more important than anything she planned out. As well the alienness of the Meduse underwhelming; obviously different in physical appearance and biological functions but remarkable human when communication is made possible.
To be honest this felt like it would have been a fine short story or a great single plotline in a larger narrative. As it stands it was a great introduction to a character but didn't necessarily seem worth even its shorter novella page length. BUT, and this is a big one, a quick glance at the sequel tells me that Binti now has to face the people back home after her taboo escape into space. And that should interest anyone who read the book and knows how hard that will be for our protagonist.
Yes, I wasn't over whelmed. But I plan on reading on and that can never be overlooked when judging a good read.