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The Core of the Sun

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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.

304 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2013

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About the author

Johanna Sinisalo

57 books264 followers
ENG: Johanna Sinisalo is an award-winning Finnish author. She was born in Sodankylä in 1958. During 1984-1997, she worked as a professional designer in advertising, after which she started as a screenwriter and writer. Sinisalo's first novel, Troll, won the Finlandia prize, the most important literature award in Finland. As her hobbies, Sinisalo mentions astronomy, gastronomy, hiking, literature and comics.

The author notes that her novels always feature a bit of the small everyday reality. However, overcoming the borders of realism does not mean that the author's works were to be classified as sci-fi or fantasy – from Sinisalo's point of view, categorizing literature by genre should be left behind.

FI: Johanna Sinisalo on syntynyt Sodankylässä vuonna 1958. Hän valmistui ylioppilaaksi Tampereella 1977 ja suoritti kandidaatintutkinnon Tampereen yliopiston yleisen kirjallisuustieteen draamalinjalla vuonna 1986. Markkinointi-instituutissa opiskellessaan hän sai vuoden parhaan diplomityön palkinnon 1987. Vuosina 1984–1997 Sinisalo toimi ammatikseen mainonnan suunnittelijana, sittemmin hän ryhtyi vapaaksi käsikirjoittajaksi ja kirjailijaksi. Sinisalon esikoisromaani Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi voitti vuoden 2000 Finlandia-palkinnon. Sittemmin Sinisalo on saanut muun muassa James Tiptree Jr. -palkinnon, Tampereen kaupungin kirjallisuuspalkinnon ja Prometheus-palkinnon.

Kirjailijan perheeseen kuuluu avomies ja aikuinen tytär. Harrastuksikseen Sinisalo mainitsee tähtitieteen, gastronomian, vaelluksen, kirjallisuuden ja sarjakuvan. Sinisalo asuu lapsuutensa kotikaupungissa Tampereella.

Tärkeitä kirjailijoita Sinisalolle ovat olleet Tove Jansson, Astrid Lindgren, L. M. Montgomery, Ray Bradbury, Volter Kilpi, Vladimir Nabokov, Michel Tournier ja Margaret Atwood. Tieteiskirjallisuuden lukemisen Sinisalo aloitti lapsena Edgar Rice Burroughsin seikkailukirjoilla. Niiden jälkeen hän löysi George Orwellin ja Aldous Huxleyn, joiden teoksissa science fiction on yhteiskunnan havainnoinin ja arvostelun väline.

Kirjailija toteaa, että hänen romaaneissaan on aina jokin pieni piirre arkitodellisuuden ulkopuolelta. Sinisalo on useiden muiden tavoin muistuttanut, että puhdas realismi on varsin nuori, 1800-luvun lopulta peräisin oleva kirjallinen suuntaus. Realismin rajojen ylittäminen ei kuitenkaan tarkoita, että kirjailijan teokset olisivat lajityypiltään scifiä tai fantasiaa. Sinisalon mielestä lajityyppiajattelusta pitäisi irtautua.

Sinisalo painottaa, että spekulatiivisuus ei ole kirjallisuudessa itseisarvo, vaan että sen kautta voidaan sanoa jotain oleellista jopa paremmin kuin realismin keinoin. Fantasian tai science fictionin kirjoittaminen ei ole päämäärä vaan väline kirjallisuuden tuottamiseen. Sinisalo käyttää sanaa ”viistovalaistus” kuvaamaan tämän välineen toimintaa: todellisuuden tutkiminen uudesta ja ennenkokemattomasta näkökulmasta voi paljastaa uusia puolia, joita ei ole voinut aikaisemmin nähdä.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 607 reviews
Profile Image for Philip.
498 reviews672 followers
December 13, 2017
4ish stars.

It seems like half of the reviews for this book begin with some version of "what a weird book," a sentiment that I absolutely echo. So strange. It doesn't have quite the power and completeness of The Handmaid's Tale, to which there are obvious thematic similarities, but what it lacks in depth, it makes up for in humor and heart (and, of course, "spiciness"). Take the first line, "I lift my skirt, pull aside the waistband of my underwear, and push my index finger in to test the sample." What a beginning, eh?

Obviously inspired by other classic works, particularly The Time Machine, this novel is a decidedly Finnish take on dystopia, which apparently means that it's really weird. It's an interesting format, partly epistolary, with definitions and snippets of societal terms and examples. Some chapters feature letters written by the main character to her sister and the letters bring much of the novel's heart. When the letters stop halfway through, something seems to be missing and the pace dips a bit until an exciting finale.

Again, it isn't fleshed out quite as much at Atwood's modern classic and the characterizations are not quite comprehensive enough to elicit a significant amount of sympathy, but it's interesting - unique, even as it walks in the footsteps of greater novels. It's worth a read. Lola Rogers, who translated the book from Finnish to English deserves a lot of praise for her work here as well.

Posted in Mr. Philip's Library
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,509 followers
October 21, 2015
It was a treat to read this dystopian story by a star of Finnish fantasy and science fiction who has published seven novels starting in the 90’s, of which this is the second to be translated. It’s a story of eugenics and social engineering with the premise of an alternate history in which women are shaped into a living dolls and congenial companions to men. Those children that fit the “femiwomen” mold are anointed as eloi and trained in domesticity in special schools while those that are too brainy or butch get tagged as morlocks and are put on a track to menial work and barred from the mating game. Thus, the tale expands upon Wells’ “The Time Machine”, with some of the flavor of “Brave New World” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.” There are a lot of nice touches in the presentation, but I just couldn’t get very excited about the eugenics focus, which was inspired by experiments of a Russian published in the 50s in which feral foxes were bred for servility and affections toward humans.

A tamed fox created by selective breeding by one Dmitry Belyaev. Why not use such means to make women more submissive and more foxy at the same time?

Our hero is a bright morlock girl, Vanna, passing illegally as an eloi. Her personal quest is to find what has happened to her sister, Manna, whose disappearance seems to have been covered up. The beginning is pretty engaging where Vanna is writing letters she can’t send, recalling their idyllic childhood on their grandmother’s farm after they lost their parents. Her sister always wanted to be a princess sought by noble suitors, while she made up stories as a shepherd girl who became a warrior with a sword and tamed wolves at her bidding. She writes:
Oh, my sweet, gentle sister. Your heart was made of chocolate, your hands were full of comfort, your brain was full of pink fluff.

Instead of being a revolutionary against the government as common in dystopian plots, Vanna just wants a path to get by. A male friend she makes while working at her grandmother’s farm sympathizes over her secret, slips her forbidden books, and helps her keep on faking as a pretend suitor. Her rich life of imagination is boosted by synesthesia, such as seeing people’s emotions in colors or smelling personal agendas (pretty cool without super powers). The negative side to her sensitivity is experiencing her inner self as a dark, creepy cellar under perpetual threat of a drowning flood. The stresses of her situation contributes to Manna’s growing addiction to chile peppers, forbidden in this society. Soon she ropes her friend into helping procure various forms of illegal capsacium. The dangers of the street trade in imported stuff leads them to team up with a mysterious vegan cult to grow their own special strains of super hot peppers. Maybe they can make enough money as dealers to escape this isolated society. For its part the cult seek the ideal zillion-scoville product that may give them a chance to achieve some kind of nirvana.

If that sound like spoiler revelations, it is the scope of the content for the promotional precis used by the publisher. If the chile addiction subplot sounds silly, I thought so too. There is no obvious satire here, but maybe there is a bit of tongue-in-cheek quality. How else to take all the emotions surrounding a score and the rush like the typical heroin addict. The fairy-tale mood of the book gets diminished by a lot of scientific didactics and yadda to buck up the plausibility of how the capsicum substance by causing pain evokes a defensive response by the brain to release endorphins and release dopamine. It was just too distracting from the human part of the story, analogous to infodumps about how magic works in a fantasy tale or how an anti-matter drive works in space opera. The same thing happened with the fictional encyclopedia or textbook excerpts on how this oh so healthy society evolved from eugenics and Walden-like principles. Better engagement to just show it in action. (If you think about it too closely, you realize that the male foxes were tamed too in the Russian study and relatively few genes distinguish the X and Y chromosomes).

Still, I have to give the book credit for its atmospherics and psychological dynamics and for adding to the limited coverage of gender issues in science fiction. And the surprising ending will be appreciated by a lot of readers I believe. I look forward to trying other novels and maybe short stories. Aside from prizes in Finland, one translated work achieved a Nebula Award nomination and a short piece won a Tiptree Award. This book, which comes out in January, was provided as an ebook by the publisher through the Netgalley program.

Sing with me the salsa song:
Teach me, chile, and I shall Learn.
Take me, chile, and I shall Escape
Focus my yes, chile, and I shall See.
…I feel no pain, for the chile is my teacher.
I feel no pain, for the chile takes me beyond myself.
I feel no pain, for the chile gives me sight.

Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,001 reviews35.9k followers
November 12, 2015
"Teach me, chile, and I shall Learn.
Take me, chile, and I shall Escape.
Focus my eyes, chile, and I shall See.
Consume more chiles.
I feel no pain, for the chile is my teacher.
I feel no pain, for the chile takes me beyond myself.
I feel no pain, for the chile gives me insight."

"Dear sister!
Just today I felt a vast longing for you"

Vanna, wrote letters to her missing younger sister, Manna. Their parents had been killed by a drunken truck driver when they were little and living in Spain. Manna was 2 years old at the time. In the letters that Vanna writes to Manna, you see her trying to tell her younger sister those things she is sure Manna was too young to remember --
If you were the 'baby' in the family - like me - you know what it's like to have your older brother ( or in my case sister), tell you stories about 'yourself' ....( sometimes to fight back and say the story was backwards or they were over exaggerating),
But Manna was missing... she couldn't speak back to her sister.

Vanna writes that she remembers how Manna shrank and cried when they moved to a little farm in Finland to live with their only close relative...their grandmother Aulikki who was nearly 70 years old.
We learn early in the story - through Vanna's letters that their father had an illegitimate child. ....but it wasn't a topic of conversation. Yet...I wanted to know more.

Vanna shares about the memories which delighted them both..a stray cat had kittens...
( which grandma Aulikki said they could keep)...but a couple days later they all disappeared.
Foxes lived in those woods.

Another memory was when both girls had to have their 'gender specified'. (Social Workers examined their appearance - showed them pictures- gave them a variety of tests- gave them different toys to choose from ( trucks, fluffy dolls)...
It was the first time Vanna heard the words "femiwoman" and "eloi". ----
Woman who are Femiwoman were considered fortunate to be designated as eloi > trained to serve men ...basically submissive for their pleasures.
If a woman was considered too masculine or educated they were labeled morlocks....
sterilized - oppressed- and coerced into demoralizing labor.

When Vanna was only 7 years old.. she remembers a conversation her grandmother had with her---"change from her overalls to a dress ---play house with Manna---be polite, agreeable, smile---and copy everything her little sister did". She learned "men don't like little girls who are smart and curious".

So, although Vanna was intelligent, and perceptive, ....she also learned to be clever' ...
She followed her grandmother's advice ... and managed to play along and pass herself off as an 'eloi'.
Underneath her skirt, ( her shield of armor), was a girl who could kick ass!
"October 2016":
"I lift my skirt, pull aside the waistband of my underwear, and push my index finger in
to test the sample".
"The seller's eyes go wide".
An activity in the wee hours of the night in the corner of a cemetery took place between Vanna and the seller ( a stranger). The stranger took her money. Vanna took a bag of illegal capsaicin, (an ingredient found in chilies, which Vanna became addicted to), and stuffed it back under her skirt.

Vanna joined Jare in selling illegal chilies. He knew her secrets ...and used it for his advantage. Vanna and Jare alternated in narration.
Jare discovers a chili which is so hot, that it can cause hallucinations
But... Why would capsaicin,( found in chili peppers) be forbidden? And will Vanna find her little sister, Manna...(a natural 'eloi', the little girl who always wanted to be a princess?)
"Oh, my sweet, gentle sister. Your heart was made of chocolate, your hands were full of comfort, your brain was full of pink fluff."

Think of all the times we ourselves have concealed - camouflaged- and pretended
.....hiding our powers ...(but aware of our powers), due to our gender alone.
I have heard women speak as themselves as 'playing female'...( when maybe wanting some strong guy to change their tire)...
Other females hide the fact that they don't want equal rights as men..( how un-politically correct)....
Do you want to play princess? Or warrior? Do you want want to marry the rich and handsome prince? Or challenge him for the kingdom? Often - we tend to be fickle... and play all sides....( but point is, we have a choice).
What if in the near future there was no longer 'any' choice?......
Society determining which women good enough to reproduce and which ones ( considered less desired), would be sterilized. Kinda scary...

The short chapters & writing were convincing enough to imagine this world...the political shifts, the upheavals, and challenges the characters had to confront with the curves life threw their way.

For a girl who seldom reads science fiction ...I enjoyed this story --sizzling chili heat...
Johanna Sinisalo, a Finnish author, kept me interested from start to finish.
Thought- provoking and entertaining!

Thank You Grove Atlantic, Netgalley, and Johanna Sinisalo

Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews1,016 followers
January 5, 2016
What an odd little book! Of course, after reading Sinisalo's 'Troll,' I was expecting some oddness.

This alternate-history gives us a Handmaid's Tale/Brave New World-type mirror of modern-day Finland; one where an exceedingly restrictive social plan has been instituted, and women have been relegated to second-class citizens. The government calls this 'new' Finland a 'eusistocracy, ' claiming that it values the happiness and well-being of its citizens above all else. Eugenics is being used to breed 'proper' citizens; those who don't meet certain standards are sterilized. The decadence and decay of more-liberal countries is frequently emphasized in propaganda.

Part of that foreign decay is the production of food containing that dangerous and addictive drug, capsaicin. All spicy foods are banned, and there's an underground drug trade in chili peppers.

Our main character, Vanna, has 'passed' as an eloi femiwoman her whole life, due to her attractive looks. However, she knows she's really a morlock, and that if she shows curiosity, initiative or other 'unfeminine' traits, she'll be doomed to a life of hard labor. Her life has been devoted to caring for her twin sister, who's always been a model of eloi domestic passivity. The desire to provide for her helpless sister led her to drug dealing. But now, her twin is missing, presumed dead, Vanna suspects her brother-in-law of murder, and in her grief she has turned to dipping into her own stock - she's become a chili pepper addict.

Vanna wants to escape repressive Finland with her dealer/partner Jare - but she also wants to find - or find justice for - her sister.

The tone of the book is a bit odd, teetering between silly satire and earnest social critique. I think it would've been more successful if it moved more wholeheartedly toward the satire end of things, partly because the 'science' here really doesn't hold up, and partly because the social elements that are critiqued here have been critiqued before, oh so many times. The mix reminded me quite a lot of Atwood's recent 'The Heart Goes Last' - I'd highly recommend this book to fans of that one.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

Profile Image for Lark Benobi.
Author 1 book1,838 followers
May 16, 2020
It felt like Sinisalo began with an idea rather than a story. Possibly my enjoyment of this novel was inhibited by the truly weird, one-of-a-kind, never-at-all-careful novel Troll: A Love Story by the same author. In contrast The Core of the Sun felt like The Handmaid's Tale lite to me. The peripatetic writing style--a combination of the personal reflections of two characters, epistolary entries to a probably-dead sister, and examples of propaganda from this dystopian society--gave the story a detached air for me where the characters never quite gelled and I never quite cared about them. The society depicted here felt a little vague and bland and lacking in vivid detail. The core relationship of the story was strangely sterile. The idea of chile peppers as an outlawed, addictive drug is interesting but it didn't tie for me into any larger theme.
Profile Image for Matti Karjalainen.
2,812 reviews51 followers
May 21, 2018
Johanna Sinisalon "Auringon ydin" (Teos, 2014) tuli luettua työpaikan lukupiiriä varten, ja se osoittautuikin varsin hyväksi kirjaksi. Oli mukava lukea vaihteeksi sellaista dystopiaa, joka oikeasti haastaa ajattelemaan ja miettimään nykyistä yhteiskuntaa ja sitä millaiseksi se voisi pahimmassa tapauksessa muodostua. Ehkä tässä on se pieni ero aikuisille ja nuorille aikuisille suunnatun dystopian välillä?

Sinisalo käsittelee romaanissaan muun muassa naisen asemaa yhteiskunnassa, kieltämisele perustuvaa päihdepolitiikkaa (tosin chilin varjolla) ja rodunjalostusta. Painaavaa asiaa on siis paljon.

Suomen eusistokraattinen tasavalta tarjoaa tarinalle kiehtovan miljöön, jota taustoitetaan tekstiin sijoitelluilla katkelmilla sanomalehdistä, kirjoista ja muista vastaavista fiktiivisistä - tai joissakin tapauksissa ei niin fiktiivisistä, kuten Kotilieden esimerkki osittaa - lähteistä.

Loppuratkaisun aiheuttamasta pienestä pettymyksestä huolimatta "Auringon ydin" on yksi parhaista lukemistani kotimaisista dystopioista, ellei ihan se paras.
Profile Image for gesztenye63.
73 reviews16 followers
October 6, 2019
Ezt én most benyeltem. Sőt, bekajáltam, felzabáltam, torkig laktam vele. Mindezt két falásra. Elsőként is épp csak megnyaltam, mint óvatos csilifaló az új terméket, de aztán úgy vetettem rá magam, mint bolond csivava a jalapeñós gumicsirkére. Magostól, csumával és szárral együtt haraptam rá és élvezettel, könnyező szemekkel rágtam el. Fel is robbantotta minden érzékeny nyálkahártyámat, még most is kellemesen bizsereg az összes létező ízlelőbimbóm, az agyamban pedig ott, az a semmihez sem fogható, nukleáris csapás utáni lüktető zsibongás.
Egyszóval minden kapszaicin-függők istene áldja meg Johannát.
Ha valaha tök hiteles, alternatív történelmi környezetbe ágyazott, társadalmi sci-fit akarsz elkövetni, azt valahogy így kell majd megcselekedned. Ebben a rövidke regényben minden a helyén van, mindenből pont annyi van és ott, amennyi és ahol az szükségeltetik, ahol a legnagyobb hatást éri el. Pont olyan, mint egy célzott, taktikai légicsapás. Az euszisztokrácia, a képzelt államrend, valamint a párhuzamosan egzisztáló roncsdemokráciák egymás mellett létezése, a vizionált „finn modell” plasztikus alaposságú, de még éppen, hogy nem ízléstelenül részletes ismertetetése. Külső dokumentumok, újságcikkek, oktató anyagok segítségül hívása a mind hitelesebb, (ál)történeti tényekhez ragaszkodó, tiszta kép érdekében. S mindemellett vitriolos társadalomkritika a jóléti társadalom groteszk eszményeiről, a nemi szerepeknek egy beteg államrend által alkotott, torz szabályok közé szorításáról.
Persze ez csak mese, ugye? Mindemellett azonban ne feledjük, hogy ezen a kontinensen váltak valóra nem is oly régen a józan emberi gondolkodás rémálmai, úgymint, intézményesített sterilizálás a nem kívánatos néprétegek, etnikumok körében, vagy államilag jóváhagyott humán génkísérletek a „nemes cél” szolgálatában, az übermensch létrehozásának, „magasztos” fajtisztító küldetése során.
Vagyis, talán nem is oly távoli a cél… Hagyjuk hát tovább dübögni nemzeti címeres hordószónokainkat Európa mind több közéleti deszkáján, hogy mielőbb karnyújtásnyi közelségbe kerüljünk az áhított, fajtiszta jövőképhez. Csak az a gáz, hogy mire észbe kapunk, addigra már azok az idilli szigetecskék is víz alá kerülnek majd, ahová jobb érzésű embertársaimmal (talán mondhatom, hitsorsosaimmal), szívem szerint emigrálnék a szép, új világ elől.
Szerintem olvassátok A Nap Magját, megéri.
Profile Image for David.
658 reviews314 followers
June 29, 2020
I'm still trying to figure out why I have this book in the first place. What trusted source recommended this Finnish Weird novel? Who prompted me to set this aside so that it was the rare book on my shelf just waiting for the right time to read? Let's just say, I'd like a word.

In the first chapter we find ourselves in the midst of some illicit dealings going down at a cemetery. It seems to involve hot peppers being tested for potency by our protagonist snaking a finger under her waistband and dabbing it against her vagina? I've got questions.

The frame widens and we find ourselves in the Eusistocratic Republic of Finland. A heavy-handed dystopian world where women, or elois, are raised to be subservient mates solely obsessed with romance, weddings and pleasing their man. Never too smart or demanding, just content to raise a family and keep a tidy home. All this wrapped around a mystery of a missing sister and expanding a lucrative but illegal hot pepper trade. Neither, though resolved by the end of the novel, really work to tie anything together or work to a larger cohesive theme.

And just hammering it home. Not a lot of subtlety on display here. There are manuals for the discipline of women that sound a lot like dog training guides. Repeated emphasis that our hero never appear too smart as a woman and more akin to an etherized lobotomy patient. And maybe Sinisalo gets a bit of a pass for pulling much of her material from the real world, (there's even a Transcendental Capsaicinophilic Society!) that might generously put her in the same speculative fiction realm that Margaret Atwood treads. But make no mistake this is no Gilead.
Profile Image for Dani Dányi.
430 reviews53 followers
January 7, 2020
Izgalmas, remekül megírt disztópikus párhuzamos-történelem, A Nap magja egy alternatív Finnországban játszódik napjainkban, ahol egy erős "euszisztokrata" államapparátus mindent tilt, ami a szigorú gender-kasztrendszerbe sorolt lakosságnak (szerinte) káros. Beleértve a káros, addiktív és társadalomellenes csilit.
A diktatúra ideológiai alapjait is megismerjük, miközben több szálon kibontakozik a cselekmény. A főszereplő Vanna/Vera és Jare furcsa története a földalatti kapszaicin-szektával szinte végig fenntartja a feszültséget; Johanna Sinisalo világa kidolgozott és konzisztens, szerencsére nem zsúfolja bele minden részletét a könyvébe, ami Bogár Edit jóvoltából klassz magyar szöveg lett.
(Legjobb olvasási élményt egy nagy piros Habanero csili majszolása mellett nyújtotta.)
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
March 29, 2020
I read this entire thing in one sitting as it's a very easy book to get into, despite the weird concepts it embraces.

This story is set in Finland in a dystopian version of the country where gender has more than two states and women often fall into the Eloi category. This is the 'ideal' woman who loved make up and dolls and babies and making their husbands happy. Vanna and her sister Manna are categorised as eloi as children, but Vanna has a secret.

The way this story unfolds is unique in that it's a story with Vanna and her actions, but it also has plenty of extracts to add context to the story, and lots of moments where the plot is told by Vanna's 'boyfriend', Jare. The mix up of formatting works pretty well here with plot and explanations interwoven.

On the whole this felt more like an exposure to the dystopian world rather than a character focused plot. Although there's a story their which revolves around Vanna and Manna, the world and the way it's evolved (more devolved) into madness is the real focus.

Another key part of this is a drug/hallucinationagenic which is in the firm of chilli. Peppers are banned and smuggled in to Finland to be grown/sold. Vanna is embroiled in the trade and she's lucky to be able to have met a guy who helps her maintain appearances.

Overall, I liked the format and the challenges and questions addressed by the story. 4*s and I'm glad I finally read this. I'd certainly try more by the author :)
Profile Image for Amanda.
1,085 reviews222 followers
September 28, 2016
3.5 stars

This one weird book! It is about a dystopian society in Finland that borrows heavily from both H.G. Wells and Margaret Atwood but manages to be completely original at the same time.

Women in this society are either Eloi or Morlock. The Elois are bred and taught to be the "perfect" wife and mother. The Morlocks are given menial tasks (even though they are the smart ones) and are banned from having children. Also in this society most all vices such as alcohol, smoking, etc is against the law so people have to turned the high they can get from the Capsaicin in chili peppers.

Vanna is a morlock that is passing as an eloi and is a capsaicin junkie. She is also on a personal mission to find out what has happened to her sister who has disappeared.

It's told in very short chapters some of which are letters, news articles, etc. I really loved the first half of this and was completely sucked in. Somewhere just over the halfway mark I started to lose interest and felt that it really bogged down. It did pick up and I found the ending really satisfying. So this is a worthwhile read that I liked a lot but didn't love.
Profile Image for Kristine Kornijanova.
234 reviews9 followers
March 26, 2019
OBLIGĀTĀ LITERATŪRA SIEVIETĒM! Kāds grib iestāstīt, ka sieviešu neatkarība un pašnoteikšanās noved pie evolucionāra strupceļa. Kāds iepazīstas ar ģenētiķa D. Beļajeva lapsu pieradināšanas eksperimentu. Kādam ir vara realizēt ideju - sieviešu domestikāciju - valsts paspārnē selekcionēsim tikai rāmās un paklausīgās. Vai nav traki uzbūvēta realitāte??? Bet vēl baisāk man kļūst, kad šādas elojas redzu ikdienā - nieku un klaču karalienes, kurām "jāiekrāso tumšākas skropstas un uzacis, jānoklāj ādu ar krāsainu ziedi, visu dienu ik pa brīdim jāaizpūderē deguna un pieres spīdums un atkal un atkal jāuzkrāso lūpas", lai ar visiem līdzekļiem cīnītos par savu maskovīrieti pārošanās tirgū!
Profile Image for Sergi.
82 reviews14 followers
August 3, 2019
Qué pedazo novela. Una de las más originales que he leído últimamente, aún teniendo el precedente de Atwood comiéndole la oreja.

Aunque la 1a parte se hace excesívamente larga (ya sea por la estructura o la redundancia de ciertos fragmentos), la 2a despega de forma trepidante y aumenta exponencialmente con unas últimas páginas bien wierd, awkward y rare que cierran la obra magistralmente.

Género y guindillas, cosas que nunca hubiera pensado que pudieran ir de la mano. Ahora no puedo dejar de pensar en poner picante a la vida y a la revolución feminista.
Profile Image for Kovaxka.
531 reviews27 followers
September 10, 2022
Viszonylag ritkán olvasok ebben a zsánerben, de már annyi molytársam ajánlotta, hogy mindenképp sort akartam keríteni rá. Nem is bántam meg. Sokáig ötösre állt: zseniális az alapötlet, a világépítés és dokumentálás, könnyen befogadható a stílus. Még a csilitermesztés részletei is érdekeltek, de aztán annyira túlburjánzott a trip a cselekmény rovására, hogy kezdett elveszíteni. A vége felé persze nem nagyon lehetett letenni, de az értelmezéssel eléggé magamra lettem hagyva. Érdekes utazás volt, de ijesztően realisztikus a disztópia, eléggé megviselt. A csilit mindenesetre továbbra is nagyon kedvelem!
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,713 reviews2,308 followers
July 7, 2022
• THE CORE OF THE SUN by Johanna Sinisalo translated from the Finnish by Lola Rogers, 2013/2016.

#ReadtheWorld21 📍Finland

Quite an ambitious novel with intriguing concepts - this book is set in an alternate present, speculating a history of genetically engineering in the 1950s creating a stratified society in modern Finland.

As if that wasn't intriguing enough, there's also a ban on addictive substances, the norm/expected things- but the "Authority" also bans chile peppers, as people are seeking the hottest of hot peppers to essentially burn their faces off chasing a wild endorphin high. An underground Gaia cult strives to breed the hottest pepper ever, "The Core of the Sun", sending the ingester into a hallucinogenic trance state.

The book is formatted with dozens of found documents, newspapers and official documents, letters, and diary entries. It feels (as the reader) that you're rummaging through belongings and putting the pieces together. The structure made the 300 pages fly by.

Loved the chile pepper story and think that whole bit could have been explored a bit more PKD drug style. The stratified society and underlying missing person mystery worked a little less for me. Felt like Sinisalo was trying to force too much into one book - perhaps concepts better explored in separate volumes?

Ultimately a cool (or perhaps 🔥 hot is more apt?) story.

🌶️ Take me chile, and I shall Learn.
Take me chile, and I shall Escape.
Focus my eyes, chile, and I shall See.
Consume more chiles.
I feel no pain, for the chile is my teacher.
I feel no pain, for the chile takes me beyond myself.
I feel no pain, for the chile gives me sight.

🌶️"Litany Against Pain" by the Transcendentsl Capasaicinophilic Society
Profile Image for Inita.
442 reviews35 followers
March 10, 2018
Lasot darbu sākumā šķiet, kā līdz šim absurdam Somija ir nodzīvojusies, taču stāsta gaitā autore parāda lēmumus, kas sākotnēji augstāka labuma vārdā noved līdz šim absurdam, kur sievietes ir domesticētas - kaut kas starp pieradinātu dzīvnieciņu un seksuālu marioneti. Tas notiek ilgākā periodā, bet stāstā tiekam iemesti tagadējā laikā, "paralēlajā Somijā".
Grāmata mani nelaiž vaļā un visu laiku domāju par likumiem, kurus sagatavo vai nevēlas pieņemt mūsu Saeima šobrīd, liekas, ka neesam tālu no tā, lai maziem soļiem ietu uz šādu antiutopisku variantu. Darbs, kuru iesaku izlasīt jebkuram domājošam cilvēkam.
Profile Image for Alejandra Arévalo.
507 reviews1,285 followers
December 2, 2020
No sé si comprendí del todo la forma en que quería ridiculizar la _femeneidad_ de la hermana desde esta superioridad moral de _yo no soy como las otras chicas y sí pienso_- Así que no diría que es mi libro favorito, pero sí es un libro muy absorbente, sobre todo desde la segunda parte, cuando el rollo de los chiles se pone irrisorio pero ahí seguía. Quizás por mi crecimiento en un país donde el chile es la cosa más común, no lograba ponerme el el mood de seriedad de lo que implicaba el ardor y esas cosas que según te hace sentir la capsicina. Por lo demás, una lectura dominguera, ni horrible, ni genial, pero de buen chisme.
Profile Image for Calzean.
2,597 reviews1 follower
October 20, 2019
In this speculative and strange tale, Finland in the early 1900s decided to adopt a society where woman were bred to be docile, pretty breeders called elois. Morlocks are those females born who did not make the grade were either killed at birth or found to be independent or intelligent were sent to a life as menial labourers and are sterilised.
The book is set in 2000-16 by which time Eugenics is king. Men are men. Apart from a handful of people no one leaves the country for the decadent rest of the world. There are also some weird rules such as banning the letter R and legislating that chillies are an illegal and dangerous mind altering drug.
Vanna is a chilli addict and a Morlock who pretends she is an elois. She and her male open-minded friend buy and sell chillies to make money and gang up with a weird religious cult to try to growm the hottest and therefore most mind-numbing chilli possible. She also is looking for her younger sister who may or may not have been murdered while trying to not be caught by the Government.
I assume this is a book that has some fun with some Finnish social issues. As such some of nuances are lost on me but it was certainly a very different story.
Profile Image for Ieva.
1,017 reviews77 followers
March 9, 2018
Protams, ka biju dzirdējusi to, ka šo salīdzina ar Atvudas "Kalpones stāstu" - kas nebūt nav slikti, jo 'vismaz manu uzmanību tāds salīdzinājums piesaistīja. Un jā, savā ziņā varbūt - taču nebūt ne kopija, drīzāk abi romāni ir vienakārš no viena materiāla taisīti un samērā līdzīgas formas (nu kā cilindriska māla krūze un cilindriska māla vāze).
Ļoti interesanta versija par paralēlas realitātes Somiju. Nu ļoti citādu: es, protams, neesmu īsts eksperts, bet tajos manos Somija mēnešos somu sievietes atstāja teju pretēju iespaidu kā romānā aprakstītās. Varbūt tas arī kalpoja par augsni manai neticībai romāna situācijai - ik pa brīdim bija sevī jānoslāpē Staņislavskis. Mana pieredze kaut kā rāda, ka vairums vīriešu nebūt negribētu precēt eloju - skaistu jā, protams, bet ne tiiiik stulbu (nu kā var saprast reāli suņa IQ līmenī). Galu galā, pat prostitūtu un seksčatu darbinieču intervijās regulāri pavīd klienti, kas grib tikai izrunāties...
Taču tad, kad par to izdevās nedomāt, jāatzīst, ka grāmatas valoda jau vien ir lasīšanas vērta. Ļoti patika dažādo stāstījuma formu nošķiršana arī ar fontiem. Un sižets kā tāds ir patiesi interesants, ši ir no tām grāmatām, kas "pati lasās" bez piepūles.
Profile Image for Doronike.
217 reviews36 followers
December 22, 2018
Somu autores dīvainais romāns, lai gan nekas jau pārāk dīvains tas nav, vienkārši distopija ar zināmiem farsa un sirreālu fantāziju elementiem. Līdz pilnvērtīgai distopijai ar izstrādātu pasauli, romāns gluži neizvelk, taču man šķiet, ka tāds nemaz nebija autores nolūks - viņai vairāk gribējies padzīt amizieri ar somu lasītāju, piedāvājot tam alternatīvu Somijas sabiedrības attīstību.
Latviešu izdevuma vāks man šķiet galīgi neuzrunājošs, šo grāmatu varēt ņemt lasīt tāds, kam jau ir zināms autores vārds, vai arī sažuvušu dārzeņu mīļotājs. Vispār lasīšana ir raita un varētu pat teikt - smieklīga, lai gan neteiktu, ka es ļoti pārdzīvoju par grāmatas varoņu likteņiem.
Profile Image for Isa González.
Author 15 books139 followers
June 23, 2019
Muy buena la combinación de elementos y la creación del mundo. Me han encantado los dos protas y su dinámica y también la forma que tiene la autora de "disimular" los info dumps xD. Muy recomendable.
Profile Image for Qedrák.
83 reviews33 followers
September 5, 2022
Nem ez az első könyvem Johanna Sinisalótól és ismét bebizonyította számomra, hogy érdemes őt kézbe venni és olvasni. Majdnem tökéletes történetet alkotott.
A könyv középpontjában ismét egy női szereplőt láthatunk, mint az Iron Skyban, aki úgy idomul egy elnyomó rendszerhez, hogy annak kereteit a lehetőségei szerint megpróbálja feszegetni. És persze ez a rendszer ezúttal egy nemi alapú diszkriminációra épül egy alternatív történelmi Finnországban. A hitelesség látszatát erősítik azok az áldokumentumok és rövid szöveges tartalmak, amelyek megszakítják a két szemszögű visszaemlékezés fonalát. A rendszer pedig pont attól válik az olvasóvan egy nyugtalanító jelenséggé, hogy csak pár lépést kell eltávolodni a valóság partjaitól ahhoz, hogy egy ilyen morbid világban találjuk magunkat. Ott, ahol a nők már átestek egy tenyésztési folyamaton, leszámítva a néhány selejtet, mint amilyen a főhős is, akiknek más módon alsóbbrendű létezést szánt a rendszer. Ott, ahol egyébként a férfiak is szét lettek osztva a lehetőségeik szerint és ahol egy elnyomásban érdekelt elit kormányozza a társadalmat úgy, hogy azt tudatlanságban igyekeznek tartani.
A főhős, Vanna, akinek a személyes tragédiájába szép lassan vonódunk bele, megismeri a rendszer határait és ellentmondásait, (persze ehhez kell neki egy kettős állampolgárságú nagymama), vele együtt pedig mi is lépésről lépésre vonódunk be az egyre visszataszítóbb arcát mutató rendszer működésébe. Eleinte még az a benyomása az embernek, hogy bármennyire undok diktatúráról is olvasunk, csak ki lehetne bekkelni, ha nincs a testvérek tragédiája. De Vanna orvosolni akarja a tragédiát, így csúszik bele a kívülálló szemével kissé megmosolyogtatóan hangzó kapszaicinfüggőségbe.
Mert a rendszer egyetlen függőséget ismer el: saját magát. Minden más, legyen szó a drogokról, alkoholról stb., száműzést nyer a szervezett alvilágba. Egy idő után itt találja magát a paprika is, amely köré dílerek és függők hálózata épül ki. Sinisalo olyannyira utánanézett a lehetséges világának, hogy még a chilitermesztésbe is kapunk némi betekintést, persze olyan szemmel, hogy a különböző agráriumból megismerhető trükkök miként segítenek a jobb termésátlagok, a nemesebb növény és a hatóságok megtévesztésének a terén. És itt jön el az a bizonyos „majdnem”, amit az értékelés elején írtam.
Mert a könyv második fele zömmel a termelésről és a katarzisról szól. De a termesztési trükkök megírása szerintem kissé repetitív lett. Ahogy a két főszereplő rálel a csodacsapatra, aki mindent tud, az számomra erőltetett „Deus ex machinának” tűnt, a végső katarzis pedig még inkább annak. És ebben rendkívül hasonló vonásokat mutatott az Iron Skyjal is, úgyhogy bennem lesz egy félelem Sinisalo más könyveivel kapcsolatban is, hogy egy remek atmoszférateremtés mellé egy gyengébb befejezést várhatok tőle.
Profile Image for Kristīne.
556 reviews1 follower
November 18, 2017
Atceraties kaimiņu somu filmu par Hitlera koloniju Mēness tumšajā pusē? Scenārijam un šai grāmatai ir viena un tā pati autore.

Ļoti laba sociāli zinātniskā fantastika pieaugušajiem. Stimulē domāšanu un mazliet arī izklaidē.

Ļoti patika fragmentārais teksts un izdevēja noformējums, skaidri atdalot katru atsevišķo teksta formu.
Tik ļoti žēl, ka nebiju grāmatu izlasījusi uz tikšanos ar autori. Būtu uzdevusi vairāk kā vienu jautājumu.

Lasiet! Šādu oriģinālu darbu latviešu valodā nav daudz.
Profile Image for Mens Rea.
170 reviews34 followers
January 6, 2016
What this book is about:

This is the story of Vanna who lives in eusistocratic Finland pretending to be an eloi. The Finnish government has decided that in order to preserve the best characteristics of human kind docile, submissive, women (elois) are to give themselves to men to procreate while smart, independent women should be sterilised and used in the workforce. Women are inferior to men who can do whatever they want with them. Vanna happens to be a smart girl but is taught to behave like an eloi since she was a young girl. She also has a strong and dangerous addiction to capsaicin which is the burning substance found in chili peppers. And that's what gets her into trouble..

As a conception, this idea for a story is profound! Inferior women taught to behave submissively and to give themselves to men as if they are nothing. A whole government system that preserves this kind of thinking (which is funny coming from a very advanced country of Europe!). But there was something missing in this book, at least for me. And the whole feeling I got out of it was that it was just okay.

A very big part of the story, maybe the first half of the book, felt very very slow. The government ideology was described and explained with short passages that presented a reasoning behind everything. Moreover we were introduced into the relationship of Vanna and Manna, the two sisters, and Vanna's addiction to chili. This is such a great idea for a science fiction novel, so I am quite disappointed that it turned out to be so dull for me.

I wanted to know more details about the implications that living in the Finnish society had for an eloi that is actually a smart, thinking woman hiding her true identity. I wanted to know more about the underground chili operations. And I wanted to know more about Vanna and Jare and their lives in these difficult conditions.

Around the last 75% of the book the pace finally picked up and I was reading it more attentively than before. There is a small mystery element to the story but I found myself not really interested in resolving what had actually happened, since I was not invested with the characters. Maybe that's because of the translation of the book or maybe it was just not my cup of tea. There were a few paragraphs throughout the story that I was really enjoying but most of the time I was just feeling kind of indifferent about the events and the characters.

Even though the writing didn't really do it for me, as I already said the idea behind the book is quite unique and interesting and I think that other people might actually enjoy it more. Finally, keep in mind that there is some mature content throughout this novel.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Mangrii.
865 reviews243 followers
October 4, 2019
3,5 / 5

El núcleo del sol es una distopía feminista que encuentra varios puntos de divergencia con sus contemporáneos dado que aquí no sé trata de derrocar a un sistema ni vencer un enemigo físico, sino simplemente de supervivencia. Nos traslada hasta una Finlandia totalitarista repleta de censura, con bloqueo mercantil e heteropatriarcado. El gobierno ha decidido controlar la natalidad, donde solo las mujeres sumisas y fáciles de manipular pueden tener hijos. Las mujeres rebeldes o inteligentes son esterilizadas y marginadas desde niñas para pura servidumbre. Como en todo régimen prohibitivo, siempre existe un mercado negro que provee de los productos ilegales. Y aquí, es donde radica el mecanismo que mueve en El núcleo del sol.

Capsaicina. Los alimentos picantes generan unas propiedades químicas en nuestro cerebro que funcionan a modo de droga. En esta Eusistocracia (término de la novela) las guindillas juegan un elemento imprescindible. Así conocemos a Vanna, una eloi (mujer sumisa) que en realidad no lo es. Inteligente, luchadora y con ansias de libertad, Vanna tratará de averiguar qué le ha ocurrido a su hermana desaparecida tras haber convivido con su agresivo marido una temporada.

Sinisalo teje un collage de cartas, informes, entradas de diccionario, y más documentos para ir desgranando tanto la historia de Vanna y sus ansias de libertad como el universo distópico que ha creado. Un recurso tan inteligente como interesante que permite a la finlandesa imponer un gran ritmo a la historia pese a que la acción se pueda ver a cuentagotas. Los capítulos cortos y el negrísimo sentido del humor de la autora, con ese aire directo en el que podemos percibir la rabia mientras tecleaba cada palabra, hacen que las páginas vuelen y la retrospectiva de la historia vaya cobrando fuerza, manejando con acierto el tempo de cada pasaje.

Sin embargo el libro, dividido en dos partes, se siente un tanto descompensado. La primera parte indaga en la vida de la protagonista hasta el momento actual, como Vanna ha llegado hasta el momento actual de su vida, sirve de foco para conocer a fondo esta prohibitiva Finlandia. La trama principal apenas avanza y a veces peca de redundante en los artículos o informes, pese a que me parece un buen recurso. Tras un tramo medio donde el lector ya conoce la mayor parte de lo planteado por Sinisalo y baja un poco el interés, el tramo final remonta con un final que pone la directa y cuanto menos te deja con la boca abierta. Por que admitámoslo, mezclar genero con guindillas no está al alcance de cualquiera, y Sinisalo te remata con un final de esos que no se olvidan, aunque las expectativas generadas al principio no se vean cumplidas.
Profile Image for Christie K.Rowling.
523 reviews94 followers
August 14, 2019
Estamos ante una novela distopica en una sociedad totalitaria donde el gobierno controla por completo a las mujeres, marcandolas en base a "subrazas" prestablecidas y alejándose de lo que llaman "democracia decadente". Mediante una selección artificial, el estado decide que mujeres podrán procrear y cuáles deben ser aisladas. El primer caso sera para las mas sumisas y manipulables, con poca inteligencia y totalmente dependientes, sujetos pasivos en aras de sus maridos o pariente masculino que corresponda. El segundo tipo de mujer, aquellas que muestran mas autonomía o conocimiento, o simplemente se las catalogue de librepensantes, serán esterilizadas. De ese modo, peinsan, se puede evitar la diseminación de futuras generaciones que se puedan oponer al régimen establecido.

Como en toda distopia, existen restrinciones y prohibiciones sobre cosas totalmente básicas, cuyo escenario se presenta en la República de Finlandia. Nuestra protagonista principal es Vanna, una chica que pertenece a la swgunda categoria. Ella nos narra la historia utilizando a menudo la herramienta epistolar a través de la cual escribe a su hermana "desaparecida". La novela entrelaza distintos métodos explicativos para la necesaria comprensión del contexto (Diccionario, prensa, flashback..).

Sinceramente, lo cogí con ganas, me pareció una temática potente y su inicio me provocó curiosidad. Sin emabargo, después me resultó lento y vulgar, con bastante subrealismo en cuanto al tema de la "droga". Un burdo intento exagerado del "Cuento de la criada" que le queda muuuuy grande.
Profile Image for Leona Lecturopata.
282 reviews65 followers
July 28, 2019
Extraña y maravillosa a partes iguales. A veces humorística, otras terrible, esta historia nos muestra una ucronía similar a El cuento de la criada o Bitch Planet #1 (para mí más a este último) en el que las mujeres que no son "perfectas" se convierten en ciudadanas inferiores y las que sí lo son viven entregadas a los deseos masculinos.

Mezclando el relato en primera persona con cartas, noticias e informes la autora consigue que la lectura se a muy ágil ¡la primera mitad del libro la leí en un solo día! Y luego están las guindillas, claro, pero tendréis que leer la novela para descubrir su secreto.
Profile Image for Jaana Viskari.
Author 1 book33 followers
December 23, 2013
Häkellyttävä. Häkellyttävän hyvä. Parhaimpia lukemiani dystopiaromaaneja. Herätti myös voimakkaita raivon tunteita kuvatessaan niin hyytävän tarkasti suomalaista "Eusistokraattista tasavaltaa", yhteiskuntaa, jossa naisista on jalostettu alttiita, nöyriä, miestä palvelevia ja miehen tarpeita täyttämään luotuja "eloisia", ja jossa Terveysvirasto valvoo kaikkia ja kaikkea. Ravisteli suorastaan, mikä ei liene huono ominaisuus. Kiinnostava ja kiinnostavalla tavalla erilainen kuin mikään hetkeen lukemani.
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