Title: The Core of the Sun
Author: Johanna Sinisalo
Pub Date: original 2013, translation 2016
My Rating: ★★★☆☆
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Synopis from Goodreads:
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?
Johanna Sinisalo’s tautly told story of fight and flight is also a feisty, between-the-lines social polemic—a witty, inventive, and fiendishly engaging read.
This is a dystopian novel like no other! Set in an alternative world of 2016/17 when Finland is a eusistocracy – the country is taking care of your health is the main objective. The citizens are divided into four groups – females into femiwomen known as eloi and neuterwomen know as morlock and males into masco and minus man. Elois and mascos are allowed to procreate, morlock and minus man are lesser people allowed only to serve. Finnish society is a true feminist nightmare. Elois are raised to be submissive, are taught to learn and count just enough so she’ll be able to read recipe and change proportions to feed 6 people of the recipe is for 2 people for example. Elois are not independent, their whole existence is dedicated to pleasing the man. The ultimate goal for eloi is to get married when their husband is becoming their master.
Vanna and Manna are living with their grandmother, they were raised in Spain and we’re moved to Finland after the death of their parents. So Vanna is quite old and pretty smart when officials come to the house to assess their gender, that is if there are eloi or morlock. Grandmother tells Vanna to pretend and act as her younger sister so they both be classified as elois. This begins a life of growing up together but completely differently. Manna because she’s younger is brought up in a true eloi way, Vanna, however, is smarter and in Finnish law, she is truly a morlock that just looks like eloi.
Such differences in sisters upbringing eventually crave a verge between sisters, jealousy and hatred. Vanna looses touch with Manna when they start eloi school in Tampere. Those events are in past, we learn about them in heartful letters written by Vanna who now is looking for Manna and at the same time trying to feed her addiction to chillies. In a land where country cares about your health alcohol, tobacco, drugs and chillies are banned.
The Core of the Sun is fascinating and original dystopian with some absurd rules. The story is bizarre, the chilli addiction and underground chilli dealing seem ridiculous. But this works really well in the story, we learn what happened and we learn why chilli is forbidden. The history of how Finland become eusistocracy is fascinating and thought-provoking. It was great fun reading this book.