The Core of the SunJohanna Sinisalo
science fiction > dystopia, alternate history
Translated by Lola Rogers.
From the queen of "Finnish weird," a captivating and witty speculative satire of a Handmaid's Tale–esque welfare state where women are either breeders or outcasts, addicts chase the elusive high of super-hot chili peppers, and one woman is searching for her missing sister
"An intoxicating book, sizzling to look at and as spicy as a hot pepper." – Weltexpress (Germany)
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. Vanna, raised as an eloi but secretly intelligent, needs money to help her doll-like sister, Manna. 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 Manna disappears, and 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.
Johanna Sinisalo was born in Sodankylä, Finland, in 1958. She has studied literature and drama in the Tampere university. She has worked in the advertising and also as a writer in many Finnish tv series.
She became known in 1985, when seven of her short stories were published in genre magazines. Next year her stories were the top three in Atoroxes, a prize given to the best Finnish genre short story. She has won the prize seven times.
Her first novel was published in 2000 and it won the Finlandia prize for literature, most prestigious literary award in Finland.
Her short stories are published in The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy (Transit) and Year's Best SF (Baby Doll).
Sinisalo lives in Tampere. Her hobbies include astronomy, gastronomy, hiking, literature and graphic novels.
Picture by Joel Kujala. Creative Commons license.
An interview with Johanna Sinisalo by Seregil of Rhiminee