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The Core of the Sun
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Published:
Grove Atlantic 2016
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Description
The Finnish author of Troll: A Love Story delivers a work of “scathing satire . . . that sits somewhere between Margaret Atwood and Kurt Vonnegut” (NPR).
 
The Core of the Sun further cements Finlandia Award–winning author Johanna Sinisalo’s reputation as a master of literary speculative fiction and of her country’s unique take on it, dubbed “Finnish weird.”
 
In an alternative historical present, 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 find her 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—a temptation so enticing that it just might divert the addicted Vanna from her quest . . .
 
“A chilling tale reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale . . . A fascinating story centered on gender politics.” —The Washington Post
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
01/05/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780802190239
ASIN:
B0163BZ1JY
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Johanna Sinisalo. (2016). The Core of the Sun. Grove Atlantic.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Johanna Sinisalo. 2016. The Core of the Sun. Grove Atlantic.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Johanna Sinisalo, The Core of the Sun. Grove Atlantic, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Johanna Sinisalo. The Core of the Sun. Grove Atlantic, 2016.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Updated:
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The Core of the Sun
fullDescription
The Finnish author of Troll: A Love Story delivers a work of “scathing satire . . . that sits somewhere between Margaret Atwood and Kurt Vonnegut” (NPR).
 
The Core of the Sun further cements Finlandia Award–winning author Johanna Sinisalo’s reputation as a master of literary speculative fiction and of her country’s unique take on it, dubbed “Finnish weird.”
 
In an alternative historical present, 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 find her 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—a temptation so enticing that it just might divert the addicted Vanna from her quest . . .
 
“A chilling tale reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale . . . A fascinating story centered on gender politics.” —The Washington Post
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Robert Olen Butler, author of The Empire of Night
      • content: “Johanna's Sinisalo's dystopian The Core of the Sun is a stunningly evocative novel about the great literary theme of identity, brilliantly rendering the complex struggle between society's norms, our innate personal qualities, and the transformative substances of the physical world. Sex, drugs, and bureaucracy: what could be more compelling?"
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
      • content: “Meticulously imagined . . . the novel creates an impressively detailed and extremely frightening world. Written with wit and grace . . . Maintains an impressive grasp on plot and suspense, easily luring the reader into taking its characters, politics, and striking story to heart."
      • premium: False
      • source: Booklist (starred review)
      • content: “Smooth writing and nicely calibrated pacing . . . [Sinisalo] ups the ante with well-paced and eerily fitting facts about the history of science, clever literary narrative, and complex characterization. This tale will appeal to dystopia lovers and fans of darkly offbeat suspense."
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly
      • content: “Sinisalo is at her best when describing the action; she makes you feel the heat of those chilies . . . An unusual and fun story with a strong dose of social commentary."
      • premium: False
      • source: Die Welt (Germany)
      • content: “By making them into state laws, Sinisalo unveils the rules by which discrimination functions--and in doing so, makes them laughable."
      • premium: False
      • source: Helsingin Sanomat (Finland)
      • content: “Johanna Sinisalo's best novel since the Finlandia Prize-winning Troll: A Love Story . . . Her literary punch in the guts is delivered with skill and force . . . The story inhabits the same sphere as The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood . . . Sinisalo demonstrates her mastery of rhythm."
      • premium: False
      • source: Weltexpress (Germany)
      • content: “An intoxicating book, sizzling to look at and as spicy as a hot pepper."
      • premium: False
      • source: Deutschlandradio Kultur (Germany)
      • content: “Sinisalo creates a world so close, and yet so far, with small, often subtle twists . . . [The Core of the Sun] is a fun, feminist, political novel--as tasty as a strawberry habanero chili sauce."
      • premium: False
      • source: Books from Finland
      • content: “Johanna Sinisalo's satire is bitingly on-target . . . The image of a country where the Health Authority decides what people require is pure black humor--it would be hilarious if it weren't so frightening. Sinisalo is a social critic, but her writing is very tangible, appealing to the senses. It makes for a unique reading experience: highly immersive, almost breathtaking . . . Sinisalo demonstrates that 'weird' is never very far from everyday reality."
      • premium: False
      • source: Die Rheinpfalz (Germany)
      • content: “Johanna Sinisalo's Core of the Sun is a vicious satire. A dark dystopian novel that is nonetheless filled with humor, and inspired in its language."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        October 12, 2015
        Finnish author Sinisalo (Troll: A Love Story) spins a dystopian tale in her latest. The novel opens in a cemetery, where an illegal transaction of capsaicin, the ingredient in chilies that gives them their heat, is underway; Vanna meets an unknown seller to get a sample of the product, which she tests by shoving it into her underwear. What kind of world bans spice? In a series of personal accounts, letters, dictionary entries, and excerpts from “historic” source materials, we learn that life in the Eusistocratic Republic of Finland is dictated and controlled by the Health Authority, which unlike the European Decadent states bans substances for the supposed health of its citizens. It also divides its citizens into sexual hierarchies. Elois (the terms are borrowed from H.G. Wells) are females who have been bred for their beauty and submissive traits; only they (as opposed to morlocks) are legally allowed to reproduce. Despite the various sources, the heart of the story belongs to Vanna. Born in Spain and raised on a farm along with her beloved sister, Manna, by Aulikki, their grandmother, after their parents’ death, Vanna looks like an eloi but her intelligence and curiosity make her something else, a secret that Aulikki helps her protect. When Manna’s mysterious death drives Vanna to addiction, she joins with Jare, a former farmhand on the property, to sell chilies. Being an eloi makes a good cover, but the Authority appears to be closing in on the whole underground, including a cult that prizes chilies above all. Sinisalo is at her best when describing the action; she makes you feel the heat of those chilies, but relies a bit too much on letters from Vanna to her sister for exposition. Still, this is an unusual and fun story with a strong dose of social commentary. Agent: Elina Ahlback, Elina Ahlback Literary.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        Starred review from October 15, 2015
        Finnish author Sinisalo (The Blood of Angels, 2014, etc.) creates a dystopian near-future Finland where women are subjugated to the demands of men by a chilling system of law and eugenics, all in the name of promoting a placid, healthy, and successful society. Closed off from the "hedonistic" and "decadent" democracies of the outside world, Finland employs a draconian policy of prohibition--alcohol, cigarettes, and even chili peppers are banned as illegal substances--and a disturbing program of gender division in which a submissive, intellectually stunted, and blandly beautiful subrace of women called "elois" is bred and trained for the sexual pleasure of men and procreation. Women with curiosity and intellect are labeled "morlocks," sterilized, and forced into lives of crushing labor. When Vanna, a morlock raised by her formidable grandmother to pass as an eloi, needs to help her docile sister, Manna, pay for the expenses of a wedding, she falls into the seedy world of the illegal chili pepper trade, aided by Jare, a friend who both knows and exploits her secrets. They ally themselves with a religious cult that believes breeding an impossibly hot chili will unlock spiritual salvation, and Vanna, a capsaicin addict herself, struggles with the competing desires for the bonds of family and independent rebellion. Narrated in sections that alternate between Vanna and Jare, interspersed with letters and meticulously imagined fragments from magazines, ads, and scholarly articles, the novel creates an impressively detailed and extremely frightening world. Written with wit and grace--Sinisalo describes depression as "a smooth-walled cavity, an open, echoing cave with a darkness living in it deeper than the space between the stars"--the novel maintains an impressive grasp on plot and suspense, easily luring the reader into taking its characters, politics, and striking story to heart.

        COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        October 15, 2015

        The Finlandia Award-winning Sinisalo (Troll: A Love Story) pays homage to H.G. Wells's The Time Machine with this tale of a Finland populated with allusive elois and morlocks. Where Wells's story suggested these races evolved into being, though, Sinisalo invents primary sources detailing the fascistic breeding of two types of women, reproduction-worthy elois and sterilized morlocks, and their free-to-be-boys male counterparts, mascos and minus men. Finland's resulting "eusistocratic" society also severs ties to "decadent democracies" and bans controlled substances all in the name of a healthy society. Unsurprisingly, this cultivates rampant patriarchy, misogyny, and to the delight/vexation of the heroine Vanna/Vera, a unique drug culture fixated on acquiring ever-hotter capsaicin from chilis, including the titular Core of the Sun, suspected to be the key to mind-blowing transcendence. Sf, fantasy, and New Weird readers will revel in the elegantly blurred lines of science and mysticism. Readers seeking a reliable, strong, female narrator won't be disappointed. VERDICT The plot points on reproduction will inevitably bring Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale to mind, but the narrator's funny, sad, punk voice could fit right in to the stories in Kelly Link's Get in Trouble and is as unforgettable.--Nicole R. Steeves, Chicago P.L.

        Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: School Library Journal
      • content:

        July 1, 2016

        Reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and borrowing expressions from H.G. Wells's The Time Machine, yet set in contemporary Finland and uniquely thrilling in terms of voice, plot, and characterization, this dystopian newcomer offers meaty food for thought about what is worth sacrificing to make a "good society." This heartbreaking story of two teenage sisters who were formerly close will resonate with young adults. One, Manna, conformed to her society's rules, but now is missing. The other, Vera, successfully hid the traits that her society considered flaws-her intelligence and her synesthesia. Now she relies on the capsaicin fix she gets from illegal chili peppers to stay sane as she tries to find her sister. It is becoming increasingly dangerous for Vera to stay in Finland, but she can't leave without knowing what happened to Manna. The disjointed storytelling style may challenge some readers, but others will appreciate the way the parts all come together in the end. VERDICT A discussion-worthy addition in a classic novels curriculum, this offering also makes for good recreational reading.-Hope Baugh, Carmel Clay Public Library, Carmel, IN

        Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from October 15, 2015
        In Sinisalo's dystopian Finland, the Health Authority has established social order based on strictly regulated breeding and health regulations. Women are of two types: eloi, who are submissive and beautiful, and morlock, who are strong-willed and intelligent. To breed out trouble-making traits, morlocks are sterilized and eloi are married early to men who can guide them. Vanna, born a morlock, has spent her life masquerading as an eloi, which is a strictly enforced criminal offense. Jare, who discovered her secret while working as an intern on her family farm, protects her by posing as her boyfriend. Together, they build a lucrative business selling chili, which has been driven to the black market by the Health Authority's ban on capsaicin. When her sister, Manna, disappears from the family farm shortly after marrying, Vanna can't investigate without revealing herself as a morlock. Hopeful that they can find clues to Manna's fate on the farm, Vanna and Jare risk the wrath of the Health Authority by allowing the Gaians, an offbeat religious sect, to use their property to breed chilies. Sinisalo harnesses the smooth writing and nicely calibrated pacing that has made her YA fiction popular, but ups the ante with well-placed and eerily fitting facts about the history of science, clever literary narrative, and complex characterization. This tale will appeal to dystopia lovers and fans of darkly offbeat suspense.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

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The Finnish author of Troll: A Love Story delivers a work of “scathing satire . . . that sits somewhere between Margaret Atwood and Kurt Vonnegut” (NPR).
 
The Core of the Sun further cements Finlandia Award–winning author Johanna Sinisalo’s reputation as a master of literary speculative fiction and of her country’s unique take on it, dubbed “Finnish weird.”
 
In an alternative historical present, 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 find her sister, who has disappeared. Vanna forms a friendship with a man named Jare, and they become...
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