Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review: The Night Masquerade

The Night Masquerade The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the action-filled conclusion of the Binti trilogy, Binti finds new sides of herself, interacts with a Night Masquerade, who is a friend, and she is fortunate, multiple times, to have escaped terrible losses. She is haunted by the trauma of past events and experiences new trauma that triggers old trauma. But Binti, being Binti, manages to overcome all of it. Okorafor has given us another colorful entry in the series, with her trademark imaginative people and creatures. So why my 4-star rating?

First, I'd have to be honest that I had a feeling that some aspects of the story are a bit iterative of things covered in the Akata stories. And I'm not just talking about Masquerades, especially because I guess sometimes masquerades can be unmasked in Binti's world. But to me, the thing that bothered me the most in this final Binti book was how jarring the continuing use of the pronoun "it" feels when applied to Okwu, her joined friend, or New Fish, or Oomza Uni's President Haras. This has been a growing issue over the course of the trilogy for me. Using the pronoun "it" for sentient beings feels not just awkward but dehumanizing. And yes, I realize these entities aren't human, and yes, I realize one of them is connected to a hive mind. But that latter fact makes me focus on the idea of the more appropriate use of "they" as a pronoun for an un- or bi-gendered being. Okwu loves Binti in their way and is willing to make sacrifices to protect her. If that is the case, is Okwu really just an "it," like an object? Binti has evolved as a character and found a voice as a master harmonizer. If harmonizers can understand and communicate in many languages with many sentient beings, the pronoun usage issue stands out even more. Sadly, this just got me so hung up by the end that I didn't enjoy the book as much as I hoped.

This is, nevertheless, a good close to a striking trilogy.

I received a paper ARC of this book. Because of my questions about pronoun usage, I delayed my review to release day to examine the final version of the book, which I purchased on Kindle.

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