Review: Binti: The Night Masquerade

Disclaimer: I have not read either of the other two novellas in Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti trilogy. I want to! But I read The Night Masquerade specifically because I was trying to read all the Hugo novella finalists, which were at least 50% books-in-series.

To be fair, I did rank The Night Masquerade third on the ballot. I did not understand maybe half of what was going on, but the half I did get…

Like Okorafor’s Lagos-set disaster/first contact novel Lagoon, The Night Masquerade is about ecosystems. Lagoon interleaves human concerns with those of aliens, sea creatures and deities; similarly, The Night Masquerade sets the concerns of its titular heroine’s people, the Himba, in the context of their relations not only with neighbouring humans but also with a range of alien species – most prominently the Meduse, a water-loving tentacled species. Binti herself is a human with Meduse tentacles, following an event that took place in one of the earlier novellas; The Night Masquerade sees her returning to her family’s home to intervene in a dispute between the Himba and the neighbouring Khoush, who are making war on them.

I just…really enjoyed the way Okorafor positioned the various species and peoples, each with their own cultural and biological needs, in this delicate web of relationships, emnities and friendships and everything in between. Like Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series, it’s a really nuanced look at how we can live in a multicultural world of which we are not the centre. I’d still love to read the first two novellas and find out what I’ve missed – and hopefully the whole thing will fall into place.

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