Nominated by:

Helsinki City Library, Finland

Chicago Public Library, USA

Publisher of nominated edition:

Grove/Atlantic, USA

The Core of the Sun

Johanna Sinisalo      

Translated from the Finnish by Lola Rogers

2018 Longlist

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.

About the author

Johanna Sinisalo is the author of the novels Troll: A Love Story, Birdbrain, and The Blood of Angels. Praised by readers and critics alike, she has won several literary prizes, among them the Finlandia Prize and the James Triptree Jr. Award. Her works have been translated into nineteen languages. She lives in Finland.

(from publisher)

Librarians’ comments:

The Core of the Sun is a skilfully written, clever dystopia about a Finland where women have been reduced to breeders and outcasts and where all stimulants are forbidden, including chilli peppers.

In a future Finland where people are divided into castes based on suitability to breed, Vanna grapples with the mysterious disappearance of her sister and her increasing addiction to chilli pepper, a banned substance. Told using different viewpoints and formats, including letters, dictionary entries, and articles, the novel portrays how characters survive in and defy their society. Wonderfully quirky and eerily timely, this is a new and spicy take on familiar dystopian classics.

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