Book Description:

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

Nnedi Okorafor’s Nebula Award-winning novella Binti hooked me immediately from its opening pages, in which Binti is leaving not only her people but her home planet after being accepted at a prestigious university. I admired her bravery in doing so and the determination that drove her to follow her dream of pursuing knowledge even when everyone around her disapproved. Binti herself was easily my favorite part of the book, as she showed over and over again the vast depths of her bravery and tenacity.

However, I found earlier parts of the story more engaging than later parts of the story. It introduced a lot of fascinating elements, but I didn’t feel they were explored as much as they could have been and would have liked more detail on them than the length of this novella allowed. For one, I would have liked to have had a better understanding of Binti’s abilities as a master harmonizer and how she worked with her people. Since she has already left at the beginning of the story, it doesn’t show her with them (although there will be two more novellas about Binti, including one in which she goes home!). I loved the little touches that were mentioned, such as Binti learning to braid a family code into her hair, and I really wanted to know more about where she came from and what exactly her leaving meant for her people.

It also seemed as though I was told Binti was exceptionally clever more than I was shown she was exceptionally clever. Amazing events transpire because of her, and it’s mentioned that she had an impact due to her gifts as a master harmonizer, but I thought it came across as her stumbling into things and it all working out in her favor rather than her skills having an influence. Although her heart and heroic spirit shine through the entire story, I wanted more clarity about the role of her abilities in what unfolded.

All quibbles aside, I am glad I read Binti even though my initial enthusiasm for it waned after reading about half the book. I enjoyed reading about the main character more than I actually liked the story, but since I did love Binti and want to know more about her, I would definitely be interested in reading other stories focused on her.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I received it for my birthday.

Read an Excerpt

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week–old or new, bought or received for review consideration (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Since I’ve been away a lot lately, it’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these so there’s some catching up to do! This includes books that came in after the last time I did one of these posts and covers multiple weeks.

It has been quiet here since I’ve been away so much, but I did recently review the June Patreon book, Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord. I thought it had a delightful narrative voice and a wonderful main protagonist.

Now for the recent arrivals!

The Devourers by Indra Das

The Devourers by Indra Das

This debut novel will be released on July 12 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). An excerpt from The Devourers is available on the publisher’s website (the “Look Inside” link below the cover image).


For readers of Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, China Mieville, and David Mitchell comes a striking debut novel by a storyteller of keen insight and captivating imagination.

On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.

From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.

Shifting dreamlike between present and past with intoxicating language, visceral action, compelling characters, and stark emotion, The Devourers offers a reading experience quite unlike any other novel.

The Long Way To a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers

This science fiction novel will be released in print in the US for the first time on July 5 (paperback). It will also be available in audiobook and an ebook version is already available. An excerpt can be read on

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a 2016 nominee for the Arthur C. Clarke Award and was on the longlist for the 2015 James Tiptree Jr. Award. I’ve been hearing it’s great so I was quite happy to learn the US paperback edition is being released much sooner than I’d realized!


Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.

The Gate to Futures Past by Julie Czerneda

The Gate to Futures Past (Reunification #2) by Julie Czerneda

The second novel in the latest Clan Chronicles trilogy will be released on September 6 (hardcover, ebook). I’m curious about what happens next after having read the first book in this trilogy, This Gulf of Time and Stars (my review | interview with Julie Czerneda).

WARNING: The plot description below contains MAJOR spoilers for the end of the previous book.



Second novel in the hard sci-fi Reunification series, The Gate to Futures Past continues the Clan Chronicles, perfect for space opera readers looking for unique aliens and interstellar civilizations.

Betrayed and attacked, the Clan fled the Trade Pact for Cersi, believing that world their long-lost home. With them went a lone alien, the Human named Jason Morgan, Chosen of their leader, Sira di Sarc. Tragically, their arrival upset the Balance between Cersi’s three sentient species. And so the Clan, with their newfound kin, must flee again.

Their starship, powered by the M’hir, follows a course set long ago, for Clan abilities came from an experiment their ancestors—the Hoveny—conducted on themselves. But it’s a perilous journey. The Clan must endure more than cramped conditions and inner turmoil.

Their dead are Calling.

Sira must keep her people from answering, for if they do, they die. Morgan searches the ship for answers, afraid the Hoveny’s tech is beyond his grasp. Their only hope? To reach their destination.

Little do Sira and Morgan realize their destination holds the gravest threat of all….

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

Crosstalk will be released on October 4 (hardcover, ebook).


Science fiction icon Connie Willis brilliantly mixes a speculative plot, the wit of Nora Ephron, and the comedic flair of P. G. Wodehouse in Crosstalk—a genre-bending novel that pushes social media, smartphone technology, and twenty-four-hour availability to hilarious and chilling extremes as one young woman abruptly finds herself with way more connectivity than she ever desired.

In the not-too-distant future, a simple outpatient procedure to increase empathy between romantic partners has become all the rage. And Briddey Flannigan is delighted when her boyfriend, Trent, suggests undergoing the operation prior to a marriage proposal—to enjoy better emotional connection and a perfect relationship with complete communication and understanding. But things don’t quite work out as planned, and Briddey finds herself connected to someone else entirely—in a way far beyond what she signed up for.

It is almost more than she can handle—especially when the stress of managing her all-too-eager-to-communicate-at-all-times family is already burdening her brain. But that’s only the beginning. As things go from bad to worse, she begins to see the dark side of too much information, and to realize love—and communication—are far more complicated than she ever imagined.

Lady Gregory's Complete Irish Mythology

Lady Gregory’s Complete Irish Mythology by Lady Augusta Gregory

I came across this in a bookstore in Dublin and couldn’t resist picking it up, especially considering it was on sale!


This volume contains the myths and legends of pre-Christian Ireland, overflowing with giants and heroes, enchanted maidens, battles and brave deeds.

Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia

Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

This collection, containing Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel Malafrena and short stories and poems also set in Orsinia, will be released on September 6 (hardcover, ebook).


The Library of America inaugurates its Ursula K. Le Guin edition with this first-of-its-kind collection of the complete Orsinian cycle, restored to print for the first time in decades

Before she upended the conventions of science fiction with such pathbreaking works as The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin created the richly imagined world of Orsinia, a central European country that serves as a backdrop for her extraordinary extended meditation on the interplay of individual will and the forces of history. The provocative novel Malafrena (written in the 1950s, but not published until 1979) is set in the 1820s, as Orsinia, a small principality of the Habsburg Empire, is swept up in the currents of revolution and nationalism that will transform the western world. Its hero, the idealistic young patriot Itale Sorde, follows his passions from his ancestral estate Val Malafrena into a turbulent wider world in the country’s capital. Thirteen additional stories, including all those originally collected as Orsinian Tales (1976), range from the Middle Ages to the collapse of the communism in 1989 to enact a range personal dramas amid larger social and historical movements. Rounding out the collection are three poems, or songs, including “Folksong from the Montayna Province,” Le Guin’s first published work, which lend additional texture to the intricate Orsinian tapestry.

Additional Books:

Redemption in Indigo
by Karen Lord
188pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 4.3/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.82/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.83/5

Karen Lord’s debut novel Redemption in Indigo, a fairly short book partially based on a Senegalese folk tale, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award and won several other awards, including the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, the Frank Collymore Award, the William L. Crawford Fantasy Award, and the Carl Brandon Parallax Award. It’s a wonderfully written, charming tale, although I really liked it instead of wholeheartedly loving it mainly because I did not think much of the second half was quite as captivating as the superb first part.


A rival of mine once complained that my stories begin awkwardly and end untidily. I am willing to admit to many faults, but I will not burden my conscience with that one.  All my tales are true, drawn from life, and a life story is not a tidy thing. [pp.1]

From the very first lines, it’s clear what to expect from Redemption in Indigo. This story, told as though it’s being orally narrated, is somewhat meandering and does not have a straightforward plot line that flows neatly from point A to point B (which is rather fitting considering much of the plot does revolve around the Chaos Stick). Every time I thought I had figured out the main focus of the book, it changed gears. At first, it seems as though it may be a lighthearted humorous story about how Paama discreetly makes the best of the unfortunate situations created by her foolish husband Ansige. After the third time she bails him out of trouble, she’s chosen to wield the Chaos Stick and it seems as though it may actually be the story of her learning to control this newfound power. Shortly after that, the indigo lord learns his power has been given to a mere mortal, and it seems as though it may be the story of his attempts to discover who has it and take it back. This ends up going in a direction I did not at all expect, and the indigo lord ends up being quite different from what I had anticipated from a character who had been explicitly stated to be the villain in this story.

At its heart, Redemption in Indigo is a mythical tale about humanity, chance, choices, and the fleeting moments that can have a lifelong impact. There’s more focus on storytelling than in-depth characterization, and I thought the straightforward style of a narrator speaking to an audience worked. For the most part I enjoyed the voice, but it isn’t particularly subtle since the narrator is very up front and open when providing commentary on the story a few times, including dissecting what it’s really about and the roles of various characters.

Though the characters are not incredibly well fleshed out, the main protagonist is wonderful. Paama is resourceful, compassionate, and dutiful, and some of my favorite parts were those in which she found solutions to the ridiculous situations Ansige got himself into due to his insatiable hunger. Three times she quickly assesses the situation and finds a way to present it that’s completely false but at least attempts to save her husband from appearing foolish (everyone comes to the conclusion he’s foolish anyway after he needs rescuing three days in a row but thinks well of Paama for her grace and tact when dealing with his unfortunate incidents). Paama always strives to do the right thing and is easy to like and root for.

The first half of the book especially brims with humor and wit, and I quite thoroughly enjoyed this part. Though the latter half remains well-written with some memorable and even humorous scenes, it’s more serious overall and I preferred the more lighthearted tone of the previous part. It worked quite well with the writing style and was quite vivid and engaging.

Redemption in Indigo is an enchanting, fairly short folk tale and a strong debut novel, though I did feel that the latter part of the book wasn’t quite as compelling as the superb first half. It’s not my personal favorite of Karen Lord’s books—that would be her thoughtful, engaging science fiction novel The Best of All Possible Worlds—but I found it very much worth reading and admired both the storytelling structure and Paama’s strength of spirit.

My Rating: 8/10 (averaged since the first half was a 9 and the second was a 7)

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

This book is June’s selection from a poll on Patreon.


June has been a rather quiet month since there’s been a lot going on, including a two-week trip to Ireland. Now that I’ve returned and have had a bit of a chance to recover from the exhausting trip home, hopefully things will pick up more here, starting with the announcement of the June Patreon title (which I finished reading yesterday).

The June book selection, determined by the monthly book poll with one of the Patreon reward tiers, is a Mythopoeic Award winner. The options were as follows:

The book to be read and reviewed for June is…

Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

A tale of adventure, magic, and the power of the human spirit. Paama’s husband is a fool and a glutton. Bad enough that he followed her to her parents’ home in the village of Makendha—now he’s disgraced himself by murdering livestock and stealing corn. When Paama leaves him for good, she attracts the attention of the undying ones—the djombi— who present her with a gift: the Chaos Stick, which allows her to manipulate the subtle forces of the world. Unfortunately, a wrathful djombi with indigo skin believes this power should be his and his alone.

A contemporary fairy tale that is inspired in part by a Senegalese folk tale.

This was the only one Karen Lord’s novels I hadn’t already read (and I loved The Best of All Possible Worlds) so I was excited about reading it! And now, I’d better get to work on that review…

Today I’m happy to share a guest post by author and futurist Brenda Cooper! Her novels include the books in the Silver Ship series (The Silver Ship and the Sea, Reading the Wind, Wings of Creation) and Ruby’s Song (The Creative Fire, The Diamond Deep). Edge of Dark, the first Glittering Edge book, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and is her most recent published novel—until tomorrow, which marks the release of the sequel Spear of Light!

Spear of Light by Brenda Cooper

By Brenda Cooper

So I was asked if I would write a guest blog about being both a writer and a futurist. I’m a technology manager, a working futurist, and a science fiction writer (and you guessed it–I don’t get enough sleep!). The future is always in my head, and science fiction, of course, is really a conversation about the future. One of the things I think about the most is the balance between technology and nature.

We are already surrounded by, dependent on, entertained by, and frustrated with technology. For most of us, all of those states happen every single day, and our future is going to be even more full of machines. It’s going to be replete with robots and smart objects, webbed with connectivity, and full of energy. This brings me pleasure. I’m an early adopter, and often fascinated with new things–for example, I was a Google Glass Explorer and I’m already wearing Fitbit’s Blaze, their newest fitness watch.

In spite of my fascination with technology, I love sitting on my back porch and listening to the aspens rustle in the breeze or the owls calling across our ridge in deep and profound conversation. Sometimes I just need the connection to reality that I feel when digging my hands into the soil, when grit is running up under my fingernails and the rich scents of decay and growth surround me in the garden. Maybe that’s not in spite of technology, but because of technology.

Our future depends on both of these states.

We need technology to manage an increasingly complex world. There will be over 8 billion people by 2025. Our lives will depend on technology to grow, inspect, and distribute food, to create clean water, and to provide medical care and medical advances. Technology will tell us about storms, diseases, innovations, and ideas. We will depend on technology to help us save the natural world. Drones will monitor elephants to protect them from poachers, sensors will identify toxins in the sea and track predators like wolves and tigers, and multi-layered real-time mapping will describe the effects of climate change on plants and animals. Technology will help us re-wild and detoxify the planet. With it, we will be better able to manage the boundaries between wild places and the fabulous cities of the future.

Helping to protect wild places may be technology’s most important job for the next fifty years. If we fail, we will probably lose many of our most important species, including icons like elephants and also less visible but more important parts of the food chain such as bees. We need wild places to grow and pollinate our food, to create our oxygen, and to purify our water. Even more, we need the wild to feed our soul. Study after study has linked time in nature to how good we feel and how healthy we are.

So these are the things that live in my head and that show up in my stories and articles. Linkages between machines and people, sensors and nature, and the present and the future.

As a writer, I want these stories to help people think about the critical complexities of the future. As a futurist, I want to encourage conversations about what we are creating. The future doesn’t happen. We make it as we talk about it, worry about it, and tell stories about it. I’m not alone, and there are other working SF writers who are also futurists. The most famous are almost certainly David Brin, Vernor Vinge, and Greg Bear. Others include Ramez Naam, Madeline Ashby, Tobias Buckell, and Karl Schroeder. I hope that we future-obsessed science fiction writers are creating fiction that entertains and starts conversations.

Brenda Cooper
Photo Credit: Tim Reha
Brenda Cooper is the author of Edge of Dark, Book One of The Glittering Edge series; The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep, Books One and Two of Ruby’s Song; and the The Silver Ship series. She is the author of Mayan December and has collaborated with Larry Niven (Building Harlequin’s Moon). Cooper is a working futurist and a technology professional with a passionate interest in the environment.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week–old or new, bought or received for review consideration (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This past week brought one book by an excellent author, but first, here are some recent and upcoming posts.

Last week I reviewed the May Patreon book, The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson. It was beautifully written and interesting, but it also took forever to get to the main story and was tedious to read at times.

Tomorrow there will be a guest post about writing and futurism by Brenda Cooper.

Now for the recent arrivals!

Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

Poisoned Blade (Court of Fives #2) by Kate Elliott

Poisoned Blade, the sequel to Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel Court of Fives, will be released on August 16, 2016 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Court of Fives (excerpt) was a 2015 NPR Best Book of the Year and a finalist for the Andre Norton Award. A prequel novella about Jessamy’s parents, Night Flower, was also released in ebook format late last year.

I loved Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker trilogy and definitely want to read this series!


In this thrilling sequel to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s captivating young adult debut, a girl immersed in high-stakes competition holds the fate of a kingdom in her hands.

Now a Challenger, Jessamy is moving up the ranks of the Fives–the complex athletic contest favored by the lowliest Commoners and the loftiest Patrons alike. Pitted against far more formidable adversaries, success is Jes’s only option, as her prize money is essential to keeping her hidden family alive. She leaps at the chance to tour the countryside and face more competitors, but then a fatal attack on her traveling party puts Jes at the center of the war that Lord Kalliarkos–the prince she still loves–is fighting against their country’s enemies. With a sinister overlord watching her every move and Kal’s life on the line, Jes must now become more than a Fives champion…. She must become a warrior.

Additional Book(s):