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physique hopping, synthetic wombs and offended ghosts in a future Botswana

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Tlotlo Tsamaase has already proved her expertise for African science fiction. Her masterly brief tales, one beforehand shortlisted for the Caine Prize, are serving to put Botswana on the literary map.

Her debut novel, Womb Metropolis, interweaves the mythological and digital expanses of Batswana tradition in dystopian trend. We encounter a distant future world through which girls stay charged with guaranteeing their very own survival within the face of makes an attempt to erase and management them.




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As a scholar of African science fiction and speculative fiction, I discover how authors like Tsamaase are using these international genres to ask questions on race, gender, expertise and tradition – in native and self-determined methods.

The most recent wave of science fiction in Africa was spearheaded by South African and Nigerian authors like Lauren Beukes and Nnedi Okorafor. However during the last decade room has been made for geographic enlargement throughout the continent and crossovers into different thrilling media like movies, comedian books and animation.

Tsamaase is a part of the newer technology of writers whose work is actively shaping African science fiction in thrilling methods. It’s fairly a feat to translate the sparsely populated, and in any other case unassuming, southern African nation of Botswana into hyperreal science fiction, however that is precisely what Womb Metropolis units out to ship.

What it’s about

Our most important protagonist, Nelah, is a brazen, clever and witty Motswana lady. She owns her personal firm and has received quite a few architectural awards for her humanitarian initiatives. But, she can also be refreshingly flawed by means of her private selections and the inherited physique she occupies.

In a world the place folks can physique hop, she has lived by means of many life cycles, and her present physique is provided with a microchip. Residing in a microchipped physique leads to stigmatisation and routine screenings as a result of solely our bodies which have beforehand dedicated crimes have been microchipped.

Whereas these microchips have eradicated crime in Botswana, those that have been assigned microchipped our bodies by the Physique Hop Facility stay topics of suspicion and surveillance. Tsamaane’s exploration of physique hopping raises fascinating questions on what it means to be human; are our our bodies mere vessels for human consciousness or do they retailer deep-seated reminiscences that alter the patterns of personalities? As well as, the novel implies that the prospects of physique hopping will open us as much as new vulnerabilities that include physique sharing, but additionally outdated issues just like the neocolonial exploitation of third world our bodies which are appropriated by the wealthy to extend their lifespans.

A book cover with a red backdrop and an illustration of a space age woman with dreadlocks emerging from a metal mask over the face that contains a human foetus as if in a womb.


Mom/Jacana Media

Nelah has inherited not solely a microchipped physique but additionally an infertile one. In consequence, her conceited husband Elifasi traps her in a loveless marriage that yields no happiness nor the kid she desperately needs to conceive. Ultimately opting to have a child by means of a Wombcubator Pod, Nelah grows content material as she watches her daughter develop in its synthetic womb. However it’s not lengthy earlier than she is known as to defend her unborn baby by making an unimaginable determination.

After she lands herself in a automobile accident, she is aware of that she ought to save the younger lady that she bumped along with her automobile by calling an ambulance and going through arrest, however the considered her unborn baby being left with Elifasi or confiscated by the federal government is just too painful to think about.

A lot to Nelah’s dismay, the younger lady, Moremi, resurrects as a terrifyingly vengeful ghost with a hitlist. The visible texture of the novel additional emerges because the ghost usually narrates occasions in cinematic phrases. Positioned in opposition to the fierce may of this murderous, time-space-hopping ghost, Nelah should make a plan to make sure everybody’s survival.

The narrative performs out like a manic journey that demonstrates Tsamaase’s capability to genre-blend with monumental ease as Africanfuturism dances alongside a darkish thriller that’s infused with humour and romance.

A bleak future

Nelah and Moremi make for a compelling set of protagonists. They uncover secrets and techniques that result in sudden twists within the novel, most of which paint an exceptionally bleak image of future Botswana.

Beneath the floor of technological change and systemic order, the nation is riddled with corruption that’s primarily pushed by cash and a masculine entitlement to girls’s our bodies. The dimensions of evil manipulation is so giant that the established order have to be dropped at its knees by these courageous sufficient to problem it.

The novel’s conclusion echoes feminine protagonists in earlier, outstanding Africanfuturist works, like Kenyan author and film-maker Wanuri Kahiu’s Pumzi and Okorafor’s Lagoon.




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However for such an impartial, irreverent and daring protagonist, the ending appears sentimental and cliché. As an alternative of imagining trenchant options to imperfect African futures it feels as whether it is escaping them by means of Utopian feminist fantasies.

Coming in at a hefty 402 pages, Womb Metropolis crams in far too many points and plot twists and gives the look of authorly nervousness over leaning into lengthy kind narratives with management and confidence. General, nonetheless, these are the early awakenings of a vibrant profession, and I look ahead to what Tsamaase will write subsequent.



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