Ahoy there me mateys!
the core of the sun (Johanna Sinisalo)
This novel was a random find in a local library. I picked it up because of the title. It was written by a Finnish author. Reason number one to read it. Reason number two: It is a dystopian novel that has been compared to the handmaid’s tale. I highly enjoyed Margaret Atwood’s novel.
Now, other than the story being a patriarchy were women have no rights and whose function is breeder, it did not seem all that similar to the Atwood novel. The book was definitely its own special thing. If anything, the author seems to have drawn parallels or commentary from H.G. Wells book the time machine which I have to admit I have never read. But Sinisalo uses descriptions and the terms “eloi” and “morlock” from that novel. Perhaps I should add Well’s book to my list of ports to plunder. But I digress . . .
I did very much enjoy this novel. The main character Vanna/Vera is a morlock who looks like an eloi and has to pretend to be one in order to survive. Her sister is of course a more traditional eloi. The story revolves around what happened in their relationship as they grow up. Some of that story is told through traditional narrative while other parts of it are told from letters that Vanna/Vera writes her sister. Of course, it is more complicated than that.
You also have some sections told in transcript form, dictionary entries, nationally published eloi stories, laws, Vanna/Vera’s homework assignments, government sponsored propaganda, etc. Oh and from Jare’s perspective. Jare is awesome, but I will leave it at that because I don’t want to spoil it. Add in philosophical viewpoints, shamanism, and capsaicin addiction.
Yes, you read that correctly. There is an entire underground black market illegally selling chili peppers. In fact, the peppers are a major component and through line in the entire novel. Highly informative to me since I like my peppers either mild or not included at all. Usually the latter.
I do not think this novel is for everyone. I found it highly engaging and interesting but it is certainly dense with ideas and not a simple read. Very mature subject matter. But I have found myself pondering over the ideas of this novel throughout the day since reading it and would recommend it to those who like complex ideas of society, addiction, genetic engineering and other lofty subjects.
Amazon has this to say about the novel:
From the author of the Finlandia Award-winning novel Troll: A Love Story, The Core of the Sun further cements Johanna Sinisalo’s reputation as a master of literary speculative fiction and of her country’s unique take on it, dubbed “Finnish weird.” Set in an alternative historical present, in a “eusistocracy”—an extreme welfare state—that holds public health and social stability above all else, it follows a young woman whose growing addiction to illegal chili peppers leads her on an adventure into a world where love, sex, and free will are all controlled by the state.
The Eusistocratic Republic of Finland has bred a new human sub-species of receptive, submissive women, called eloi, for sex and procreation, while intelligent, independent women are relegated to menial labor and sterilized so that they do not carry on their “defective” line. Vanna, raised as an eloi but secretly intelligent, needs money to help her doll-like sister, who has disappeared. Vanna forms a friendship with a man named Jare, and they become involved in buying and selling a stimulant known to the Health Authority to be extremely dangerous: chili peppers. Then Jare comes across a strange religious cult in possession of the Core of the Sun, a chili so hot that it is rumored to cause hallucinations. Does this chili have effects that justify its prohibition? How did Finland turn into the North Korea of Europe? And will Vanna succeed in her quest to find her sister, or will her growing need to satisfy her chili addiction destroy her?
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