Motswanan author Tlotlo Tsamaase just released the book cover for her upcoming speculative fiction novel Womb City and it is so stunning that it will make you look twice. The novel is set to be published by Erewhon Books in January 2024.

The main focus of the book cover is the image of cyborg’s head with a baby inside. This “mind-womb”, as Tsamaase calls it, is depicted with such intricate detail that it does not look out of place or odd in any way. At the same time, the mind-womb acts like a mask restricting the cyborg from seeing anything outside of this contraption.

This stunning book cover is designed by artist Colin Verdi and designer Samira Iravani. Tsamaase remarked in an interview that she was absolutely shocked and amazed by the cover design:

My jaw dropped when I saw how Colin Verdi drew from the details in Womb City by blending its science fiction features into this surreal mind-womb: a disembodied, floating cyborg’s head that encloses not a brain but a womb-pod with a baby trapped inside. This image is truly symbolic of the objectification and pervading threat that Nelah, the protagonist, faces. I love the striking aesthetics of the mind-womb—particularly how it touches on the book’s themes of restricted autonomy and the technology that plagues the characters’ bodies—against this red backdrop; this color transforms Womb City’s cover into a horror-hued poem.

Verdi commented on the process of designing the book cover, providing us with a deeper glimpse into the link between the visuals and the themes of the novel:

When I started working on Womb City, I was lucky to receive a gorgeous moodboard from the author that painted a clear picture of the visuals Tlotlo Tsamaase had had in mind while writing this story. It included the phrase ‘Womb of Sins’ tucked under a series of reference images of people growing in pods. The imagery that would end up on the final cover immediately sprang to my mind. The titular womb is directly where the central figure’s brain should be, telling readers that this is a story about a mother with a child always on her mind, yes, but also conveying that this book is about how a secret or a sin can grow and take on a new shape the more time it spends rattling around in our heads. The mother’s body is incomplete, with the creeping tendrils of wires and futuristic technology dangling from her ‘shoulders’ into space, to show how much this thing growing in her mind will consume her.

In this dystopian narrative, the main character Nelah is looking forward to her new baby growing in a government lab. But she is trapped in a loveless marriage with a suspicious policeman who monitors her movements. One evening, Nelah gets into a car accident and commits a desperate crime, burying the dead body to keep it from her husband. However, the body is not so dead after all as the ghost of her victim hunts down Nelah’s loved ones. Nelah must figure out the political conspiracy her victim was on the verge of exposing in time to save the remaining folks. Read our book news post about Womb City here.

Tsamaase is a Motswanan speculative fiction writer, and a number of her works have appeared here on Brittle Paper. She was a Lambda Award finalist for her novella “The Silence of the Wilting Skin” and won the Nommo Award for her short story “Behind Our Irises” published in Brittle Paper’s Africanfuturism Anthology.

Womb City will be published January 30, 2024. Stay tuned for the preorder link!