If you want to read top quality Science Fiction or Fantasy works but you don't really know what to read you pretty much cannot go wrong by picking a Hugo or Nebula Prize Winning work (both awards have webpages listing all the winners from past years). Awards are given for best novel, best short story and best novella.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor won both awards for best novella in 2015. The description on Amazon and the publisher's website (tor.com) sounded very intriguing, reading time under two hours.
Binti is a 16 year old mathematics genius, called a harmonizer, a member of the Himbi people, living far in the future. The Hambi live in Northern Namibia, in 2017 the population is estimated at 50,000. In our story, they are very into technology, computer design, and mathematics. They are also very devoted to their own ancient culture, almost insular. They rarely leave their home area and they fear the idea. No one in Binti's family has ever left their area, let alone Earth.
Binti receives an invitation to study at the most advanced academy in the universe, the very prestigious planet Oomza, the population there is only five percent human. Binti is so worried about how her family will react that she sneaks off to catch the space ship the planet. Okorafor is super creative and imaginative. I loved the idea that the space ships were Bio-engineered living creatures. Everyone at the space port is surprised by the red clay caking the face of Binti and in her braided hair. This is an ancient Hambi tradition, going back to very old times when the red clay as used as protection from dangerous insect bites and to demarcate tribal identity.
Something very exciting and scary happens on the trip but I don't want to tell anymore of the so much fun, so very intelligent plot. There is a sequel to Binti and I hope to read it this year.
I read this as part of my participation in The African Reading Challenge 2017 (see the link above for details.
Nnedi Okorafor has made a name for herself with novels that combine politically complex science fiction and lyrical fantasy. -- The New York Times
Nnedi Okorafor is an international award-winning novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Born in the United States to two Nigerian immigrant parents, Nnedi is known for weaving African culture into creative evocative settings and memorable characters. In a profile of Nnedi’s work titled, “Weapons of Mass Creation”, The New York Times called Nnedi’s imagination “stunning”.
Nnedi’s books include Lagoon (a British Science Fiction Association Award finalist for Best Novel), Who Fears Death (a World Fantasy Award winner for Best Novel), Kabu Kabu (A Publisher’s Weekly Best Book for Fall 2013), Akata Witch (an Amazon.com Best Book of the Year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature), and The Shadow Speaker (a CBS Parallax Award winner).
Her latest works include her novel The Book of Phoenix (an Arthur C. Clarke Award finalist), her Binti Trilogy ( the first of which won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novella) and her children’s book Chicken in the Kitchen (winner of an Africana Book Award). The final installment of the Binti Trilogy (titled The Night Masquerade) will be released in September and the sequel to Akata Witch (title Akata Warrior) is due out in October. Nnedi is an Full Professor at the University at Buffalo, New York (SUNY).