A superb, satisfying and surprising ending to a stellar science fiction trilogy.

opening remarks

The third in Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti series – Binti: The Night Masquerade.  The first two, which are fantastic and if you haven’t already you should read them now, were novellas, this one is a short novel.  The covers for all three books have been lovely.

knee-jerk observations

Because this is the third book in a trilogy I’m going to keep the spoilers to the barest of bare minimums.  Still, Mwinyi’s story of how he knew he was a harmoniser is lovely:

Nothing comes easily to the protagonists of Okarafor’s fiction.  Even if they have talents or powers or something that marks them out as exceptional that difference generally only makes things worse.  In the case of Binti, her mathematical prowess forces her to leave her rigid community.  It’s what made the second novella in this series so powerful (Home) because she was compelled to confront the prejudice of her family and community after experiencing a spiritual and literal change.  In this third book she now needs to repair deep wounds and of course, this comes with a great deal of pain and loss.  The fact that Binti still stands tall, while she continues to come to terms with who and what she is and deal with the agony of events that have come to pass, makes her such a compelling character.

Reading Binti: The Night Masquerade and my thoughts are again drawn to the bullshit argument that political science fiction or message fiction is dull, that it lacks the sense of wonder and inventiveness of so-called escapist SF.  The Binti series is all about clashing cultures and prejudice, it’s about being a lone voice for reconciliation and peace while friends and enemies plan for war.  It couldn’t be more agenda-driven and yet the series, and in particular this third book, is tense, dangerous and surprising.

I’m partial to a passionate, angry, heroic speech:

Oh wow… Nnedi… what have you done?!  Like I said above, no spoilers, but I appreciate an author who is willing to throw aside the rule book because the story dictates it.

The Gist Of It

Binti: The Night Masquerade is a more than satisfying conclusion to what’s turned out to be a fantastic science fiction trilogy.

While reading the final instalment I did wonder how I might have reacted to the series if I’d read it as a single novel.  I’m sure I would have still loved it because it’s a story that’s constantly moving forward, that rarely takes a pause as Binti faces challenges that would break most people (I know I’d have been one of the first to get a Meduse stinger to the chest).  But devouring the book as a serial with a 12-month gap between each episode, added an extra tingle of anticipation.

That’s not to say that I endorse big fat fantasy or big fat science fiction multi-volume series, rather what Okorafor has done, facilitated wonderfully by, who really do deserve all the praise for starting this line of high-quality genre novellas, is publish the almost perfect trilogy.  Short books that still pack all the narrative punch and thematic richness of their much larger cousins.  Nnedi has proven with Binti that you don’t need millions of words to tell complicated, political, astute, tense, dangerous, jaw-dropping fiction.  The character depth, the bold twists, the grand-standing heroic speeches, the sense of wonder, the sheer epic scope, it’s all present in this trilogy and it’s bloody marvellous.