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The Core of the Sun

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3.89  ·  Rating details ·  2,768 ratings  ·  484 reviews
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 stab ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Grove Press, Black Cat (first published 2013)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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Philip
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Michael
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 bra ...more
Elyse  Walters
Oct 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
"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
...more
Althea Ann
Nov 11, 2015 rated it liked it
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 bree
...more
Kaitlin
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
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'
...more
David
Jun 29, 2020 rated it liked it
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 da
...more
lark benobi
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 d ...more
Rana
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What in god's effing hell was that? So completely insane and original and horrifying and good good good and seriously, fucking horrifying.

A quadruple dose of Handmaid's Tale, some chili pepper addiction, excellent world-building, and even forays into shamans and anthropology. And it's even got some science just for fun!

This isn't a straight-forward tale as it's told through two different POVs as well as dictionary entries, academic journals excerpts, and letters so the character building is a
...more
Amanda
Sep 28, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 l
...more
Calzean
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
...more
David Firmage
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quirky, strange and enjoyable. Love my chilli peppers so that really sold me.
Mens Rea
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Jani
Sep 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A modern dystopia with central emphasis on gender roles and spiced by chili, what is there not to like? At least for one interested in these things and who has lived in Finland in the past decade and has followed the discussion concerning the former that has even surfaced in the mainstream media, not always pleasantly, this book is a must read.

Sinisalo's novel is set in dystopic Finland of the 21st century. Vanna, or Vera before she had to be renamed to remove the unladylike letters r in her bir
...more
Stacia
Aug 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe, 2018
Gosh, I hadn't read a dystopian book in a long time. I actually enjoyed this one. Even though it is described as "Finnish weird", I still can't find it weird. (My son assured me the idea/summary of the book seems weird but that I'm just desensitized to weird because I read too much off-the-wall stuff.)

The book is told from a couple of different viewpoints, some letters, some inserted "articles" (from supposed scientific texts or magazines), etc. I'm used to a variety of storytelling methods lik
...more
katyjanereads
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
1. I couldn't put this book down.
2. I loved the different ways the book was written: Jare Speaks, Vanna's letters to her sister, and all of the different publications. I think it made the reader understand this dystopian world more.
3. I read The Handmaid's Tale and Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill which led me to this book. All three focus on the perfection and dependability of women. The Time Machine is now on my "to read" list.
4. But where is Manna?!
5. It was hard to explain this book to peo
...more
Sarah Coolidge
Jul 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
I just finished "Version Control," which I thought made very artful social commentary. This book, on the other hand, was just a soapbox for gender issues that might be interesting to someone who has never thought about gender issues before but... I stopped reading on page 57.
Caitlyn
Comparisons to The Handmaid's Tale are certainly fair, but shouldn't be taken too far.

Complaints: Vanna/Vera's (hereafter, Vera) addiction to chilies feels like a side issue that's given too much time. The end feels rushed and left me with more questions than answers. The genetics seems a bit wonky, and I'm conflicted about whether this story - intentionally or unintentionally - implies that women who do conform to social mores are universally vapid and dull. I'd have liked a more explicit disc
...more
Chris Walker
Dec 10, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a solid if somewhat unremarkable book. The best thing about it by far was the world that Sinisalo created. It takes place in a super authoritarian Finland (a eusistocracy in its own terms) which has completely closed itself off from the outside world. Within its borders it forces the populace to adhere to extremely strict gender roles. Women are divided into the hyper-feminine, subjugated elois and the gender non-conforming morlocks, who are forcibly sterilized and used as a source of l ...more
Emily Sampson
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved this book, it’s totally different than anything I’ve read before but I couldn’t put it down. If anyone has suggestions for something similar, let me know!
Stefanie
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sometimes a book starts with a great idea and the execution is a failure. This one is just the opposite. She took the goofiest idea and pulled it off rather well, I think.
Jill e.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Megalion
"I lift my skirt, pull aside the waistband of my underwear, and push my index finger in to test the sample."

What an opener!

I've a particular affinity for all things Finnish thanks to a period where I was obsessed with Finnish rock music. I still hope to get over there to visit one day.

Naturally, when I spotted this translation of a Finnish book among the books published in 2016, I had to read it.

It's an alternate history type of science fiction. Set mostly in Tampere, Finland. Society has been r
...more
Literary Multitudes
Sure. That was weird.

But good weird. I really enjoyed reading this. Probably not a perfect book, but still great. Made me cringe at times with its bluntness, but that's great. And there were a lot of interesting concepts and ideas in the book, not all followed through, though. Still, very interesting read.
Sarah Cavar
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Clever book, but it sometimes falls victim to the stereotypes it tries to subvert (that feminine presentation / enjoyment of feminine aesthetics = empty-headedness; that intelligence and looks are diametrically opposed). But overall, a great and unexpectedly disability-flavored read; an unfortunate reminder, too, of the state of the gender dystopia we live in today.
Jan
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fast, fun, provocative read. About chili peppers. From Finland. Go figure.
Laura
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi
An odd, Finnish Handmaid's Tale with a trippy metaphysical heart.
branon
Twice while reading this book, I had culinary experiences that brought the story flooding to the fore of my mind and awakened a strange, new euphoria — once while eating jalapeños in a salad and once while eating Szechuan peppercorn ice-cream (tingly and yummy and probably sinful!), which I now know affects through hydroxy-α-sanshool and not capsaicin. I may never experience chilis or pepper of any kind the same way again.

THE CORE OF THE SUN, by Johanna Sinisalo and translated by Lola Rogers, is
...more
Thomas Andrikus
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
What an amusing story!
In this novel, the modern-day Finland is a dictatorship.

Unlike the real-life dictatorships like North Korea, however, the Finland in this story does not have an authoritarian leader to be worshipped. Instead, the Finns are always encouraged to improve their health and their standings in society. Trappings of modern technology such as internet and cellphones do not exist (presumably because of its bad radiation effects). Alcohol, tobacco, narcotic drugs, and chili peppers ar
...more
Edward Rathke
Sep 23, 2019 rated it liked it
What would a country be like if it could have been planned by incels? I suppose you'd have the version of Finland in this novel.

It's a dystopian novel, obviously, where women are so utterly subjugated that they evolve into two separate phenotypes, for lack of a better word. There are the hyper-feminine women who are beautiful and docile, and therefore allowed to breed, and then there are the rest of them, who are allowed to work but are sterilized at a young age. Women can't own property and so
...more
Barred Owl Books
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 int ...more
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ENG: Johanna Sinisalo was born in Sodankylä in 1958. In the period 1984-1997 she worked as a professional designer in advertising, after which she got started as a screenwriter and writer. 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 reali
...more

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November is the time for aspiring writers to get serious about writing that book! It's National Novel Writing Month, the annual event designed to...
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“Pretend that you're a clever shepherd girl, and you're just dressed up in pretty clothes, and you're trying to make everybody believe that you're a spoiled, empty-headed little princess. So no one guesses that under your clothes you're a brave shepherd girl who climbs trees and chases away wolves with your staff.” 5 likes
“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 sight. —Transcendental Capsaicinophilic Society, “Litany Against Pain” 3 likes
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