I read Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor a couple of years back, when it was nominated for best novella, and I liked it. I was under the impression that there had been a novel between that and Binti: Home, which is this year’s nomination but it turns out that this is the second novella in the series.
Once again, the worldbuilding is very rich, and I enjoyed the character of Binti. This book was somewhat painful to read, as Binti returns (temporarily) to the family she left in order to go to Oomza University, and the dynamics are… tense, to say the least. She also brings her Meduse friend, Okwu, with her, and this nearly leads to disaster the moment they reach earth. Binti’s intention is to go on pilgrimage (and I would have loved to know more about that), but instead, she winds up taking a different journey. There is some interesting exploration of cultural hierarchies, here. While Binti’s people are viewed as primitive by the Khoush, they in turn look down on the Desert People, who of course turn out to be more than they seem (and not ‘mystical primitives’. either).
All of this is great until Binti gets word of a catastrophe, which means she must return at once, and then you turn the page and the book stops, and you *don’t* scream rude things because you don’t want to wake your husband, but really, why do people keep nominating portions of books for the Hugos? Once again, I’m at a bit of a loss of how to judge this. If I were judging it as a chapter or extract from a book, it would get very high marks and make me want to read the book. But as a story in itself, I think it fails. It has, if anything, even less resolution than The Black Tides of Heaven, and also less of a beginning, though that bothered me less – I think it stands alone at the front end, if one doesn’t mind being dropped into a world and needing to figure some things out, which I believe is a requirement for enjoying a lot of science fiction!
So yeah. I don’t think I can put this or Tides at the top of my ballot, even though they are both excellent at what they are doing, because what they are doing is not writing a novella. But equally, I feel like they deserve a higher ranking than River of Teeth, which is a complete story, but which did not leave me with any particular desire to read the sequel (which, yes, clearly exists, and the story clearly ends at a point where you would like one – but it has the courtesy to finish the first story first.) And I don’t know where to put them in relation to Sticks and Bones, which I did like and which is complete, but which I suspect isn’t quite as good, objectively.
Ah well. I’ve been saving the Murderbot book until last, and I have high hopes for it… though since it has never previously occurred to me to ask whether books have proper endings or not, I’ve not scanned the reviews for it with that in mind. Here’s hoping I won’t be unpleasantly surprised on that front…