binti_final

The long-awaited sequel to Binti comes out in a few weeks. Ahead of the official release, an excerpt of the story was published on io9.gizmodo.com.

At the end of book one, Binti arrives at Oomza University after an unbelievably horrifying inter-galactic odyssey. Notwithstanding, she’s succeeded in establishing an alliance, perhaps, a shaky one between humans and the Meduse. She even finds a friend—a Meduse student named Ukwu.

Binti Home begins one year later. Binti is still trying to get used to school life but eventually decides to return home with Ukwu tagging along. A meduse in the human world? A very trick situation indeed.

If the excerpt is anything to go by, fans of the first novel are in for a treat. Binti is still very relatable. She still gets lost doing those complex math calculations called treeing. Her hair is still a prominent part of her look and sense of self. She is still hustling her way through her ambitions and unconventional dreams for herself.

To say Binti Home is highly anticipated is an understatement. Apart from the fact that the first novel has been a favorite among scifi/fantasy fans, it won the Nebula award last year. Readers have high hopes for the sequel. It looks like Okorafor is set to reprise the success of the first book in the sequel.

We know you can’t wait for the book. In the meantime, here is an excerpt.

Enjoy reading!

[Preorder Binti Home here]

***

“Five, five, five, five, five, five,” I whispered. I was already treeing, numbers whipping around me like grains of sand in a sandstorm, and now I felt a deep click as something yielded in my mind. It hurt sweetly, like a knuckle cracking or a muscle stretching. I sunk deeper and there was warmth. I could smell the earthy aroma of the otjize I’d rubbed on my skin and the blood in my veins.

The room dropped away. The awed look on my mathematics professor Okpala’s face dropped away. I was clutching my edan, the points of its stellated shape digging into the palm of my hands. “Oh, my,” I whispered. Something was happening to it. I opened my cupped palms. If I had not been deep in mathematical meditation, I’d have dropped it, I’d not have known not to drop it.

My first thought was of a ball of ants I’d once seen tumbling down a sand dune when I was about six years old; this was how desert ants moved downhill. I’d run to it for a closer look and squealed with disgusted glee at the undulating living mass of ant bodies. My edan was writhing and churning like that ball of desert ants now, the many triangular plates that it was made of, flipping, twisting, shifting right there between my palms. The blue current I’d called up was hunting around and between them like a worm. This was a new technique that Professor Okpala had taught me and I’d gotten quite good at it over the last two months. She even called it the “wormhole” current because of the shape and the fact that you had to use a metric of wormholes to call it up.

Breathe, I told myself. The suppressed part of me wanted to lament that my edanwas being shaken apart by the current I was running through it, that I should stop, that it I would never be able to put it back together. Instead, I let my mouth hang open and I whispered the soothing number again, “Five, five, five, five, five.” Just breathe, Binti, I thought. I felt a waft of air cross my face, as if something passed by. My eyelids grew heavy. I let them shut…

 

***

…I was in space. Infinite blackness. Weightless. Flying, falling, ascending, travelling through a planet’s ring of brittle metallic dust. It pelted my skin, fine chips of stone. I opened my mouth a bit to breathe, the dust hitting my lips. Could I breathe? Living breath bloomed in my chest from within me and I felt my lungs expand, filling with it. I relaxed.

 “Who are you?” a voice asked. It spoke in the dialect of my family and it came from everywhere.

“Binti Ekeopara Zuzu Dambu Kaipka of Namib, that is my name,” I said.

Pause.

I waited.

“There’s more,” the voice said.

“That’s all. I said. That’s my name.”

 “No.”

The flash of anger that spurted through me was a surprise. Then it was welcome. I knew my own name. I was about to scream this when…

 

***

…I was back in the classroom. Sitting before Professor Okpala. I was so angry, I thought. Why was I so angry? It was a horrible feeling, that fury. Back home, the priestesses of the Seven might even have called this level of anger unclean. Then one of my tentacle-like okuoko twitched. Outside, the second sun was setting. Its shine blended with the other sun’s, flooding the classroom with my favorite color, a vibrant combination of pink and orange that the native people of Oomza Uni called “ntu ntu”. Ntu ntu bugs were an Oomza insect whose eggs were a vibrant orange-pink that softly glowed in the dark.

The sunlight shined on my edan, which floated before me in a network of current, a symmetry of parts. I’d never seen it disassemble like this and making it do so had not been my intention. I’d been trying to get the object itself to communicate with me by running current between its demarcations. Okpala claimed this often worked and I wanted to know what my edan would say. I had a moment of anxiety, frantically thinking, Can I even put it back together?

Then I watched with great relief as the parts of my edan that had detached slowly, systematically, reattached. Whole again, the edan set itself down on the floor before me. Thank the Seven, I thought.

 
Both the blue from the current I still ran around it and the bright ntu ntu shined on Okpala’s downturned face. She had an actual notebook and pencil in hand, so earth basic. And she was writing frantically, using one of the rough thick pencils she’d made from the branch of the tamarind-like tree that grew outside the mathematics building.

“You fell out of the tree,” she said, not looking up. This was how she referred to that moment when you were treeing and then suddenly were not. “What was that about? You finally had the edan willing to open itself.”

“That’s what it was doing? That was a good thing, then?”

 She only chuckled to herself, still writing.

I frowned and shook my head. “I don’t know…something happened.” I bit my lip. “Something happened.” When she looked up, she caught my eye and I had a moment where I wondered whether I was her student or piece of research.

I allowed my current to fade, shut my eyes and rested my mind by thinking the soothing equation of f(x) = f(-x). I touched the edan. Thankfully, solid again. 

“Are you alright?” Professor Okpala asked.

Despite medicating with the soothing equation, my head had started pounding. Then a hot rage flooded into me like boiled water. “Ugh, I don’t know,” I said, rubbing my forehead, my frown deepening. “I don’t think what happened was supposed to happen. Something happened, Professor Okpala. It was strange.”

Now Professor Okpala laughed. I clenched my teeth, boiling. Again. Such fury. It was unlike me. And lately, it was becoming like me, it happened so often. Now it was happening when I treed? How was that even possible? I didn’t like this at all. Still, I’d been working with Professor Okpala for over one Earth year and if there was one thing I should have learned by now it was that working with any type of edan, no matter the planet it had been found on, meant working with the unpredictable. “Everything comes with a sacrifice,” Okpala liked to say. Every edan did something different for different reasons. My edan was also poisonous to Meduse; it had been what saved my life when they’d attacked on the ship. It was why Okwu never came to watch any of my sessions with Okpala. However, touching it had no such effect on me. I’d even chanced touching my okuoko with my edan. It was the one thing that let me know that a part of me may now have been Meduse, but I was still human.

“That was isolated deconstruction,” Professor Okpala said. “I’ve only heard of it happening. Never seen it. Well done.”

She said this so calmly. If she’s never seen it happen before, why is she acting like I did something wrong, I wondered. I flared my nostrils to calm myself down. No, this wasn’t like me at all. My tentacle twitched again and a singular very solid thought settled in my mind: Okwu is about to fight. An electrifying shiver of rage flew through me and I jumped. Who was trying to bring him harm? Calmly, I said, “Professor, I have to go. May I?”

She paused, frowning at me. Professor Okpala was Tamazight, and from what my father said of selling to the Tamazight, they were a people of few but strong words. This may have been a generalization, but with my professor, it was accurate. I knew Professor Okpala well, there was a galaxy of activity behind that frown. However, I had to go and I had to go now. She held up a hand and waved it. “Go.”

I got up and nearly crashed into the potted plant behind me as I turned awkwardly toward my backpack.

“Careful,” she said. “You’re weak.”

I gathered my backpack and was off before she could change her mind. Professor Okpala was not head professor of the mathematics department for nothing. She’d calculated everything probably the day she met me. It was only much much later that I realized the weight of that brief warning.

I took the solar shuttle.

With the second sun setting, the shuttle was at its most charged and thus its most powerful. The university shuttle was snake-like in shape, yet spacious enough to comfortably accommodate fifty people the size of Okwu. Its outer shell was made from the molted cuticle of some giant creature that resided in one of the many Oomza forests. I’d heard that the body of the shuttle was so durable, a crash wouldn’t even leave a scratch on it. It rested and travelled on a bed of “narrow escape”, slick green oil secreted onto a track way by several large pitcher plants growing beside the station.

I’d always found those huge black plants terrifying, they looked like they’d eat you if you got too close. And they surrounded themselves with a coppery stink that smelled so close to blood that the first time I came to the station, I had what I later understood was a panic attack. I’d stood on the platform staring blankly as I held that smell in my nose. Then came the flashes of memory from that time so vivid…I could smell the freshly spilled blood. Memories from when I was in the dining room of a ship in the middle of outer space where everyone had just been viciously murdered by Meduse.

 

I had not ridden the shuttle that day. I didn’t ride it for many weeks, opting to take swift transport, a sort of hovering bus that was actually much slower and used for shorter journeys. When I couldn’t stand the slowness and decided to try the solar shuttle again, I’d pinched my nose and breathed through my mouth until I got onboard. Once we started moving, the smell went away.

A native operated the scanner and I handed her my astrolabe to scan. She narrowed her wide blue eyes and looked at me down her small nose, as if she didn’t see me take this shuttle often enough to know my schedule. She batted one of my okuoko with a finger; her hands were bigger than my head. Then she rubbed the otjize between her finger and motioned for me to enter the shuttle’s cabin.

I sat where I always sat, in the section for people my size near one of the large round windows and strapped myself in. The shuttle travelled five hundred to a thousand miles per hour, depending on how charged it was. I’d be in Weapons City in fifteen minutes and I hoped it wasn’t too late, because Okwu was about to kill his teacher.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

One Response to “Book Excerpt | Binti Home | by Nnedi Okoafor” Subscribe

  1. Michael E. Umoh 2017/01/04 at 13:37 #

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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