Drugs and Other Thoughts on The Core of the Sun

The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo was one of the best books I read last year. By growing my shelf with translated works, I went first to anything science fiction and written by Finnish authors: Johanna Sinisalo was first on the list. This is her most recent book translated into English and it far exceeds her previous works in breadth of conversations on social issues. (Her character development is a smidge better in her book Troll: A Love Story, but that one is hard to recommend because the translation felt like it could’ve used more work. I digress.)

The front cover to The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo features rows of small children at the top with one holding a fire truck while the others hold babies. The bottom includes rows of women holding babies and one woman holding a red pepper. A red pepper is strewn across the middle of the cover.
The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

This book explores a historical future, where the Eusistocratic Republic of Finland controls love, sex, and free will by placing people (and specifically women) into certain roles. As a shadow of The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, women are split into two groups, eloi and morlocks, one used for reproduction and one for manual labor. Vera changes her name to Vanna to de-masculinize her name, disguising herself as an eloi, and attempts to dupe those closest to her, including her sister. But when her nasty brother-in-law, Jare, starts acting suspicious and Vera/Vanna’s identity is on the line, her sister mysteriously goes missing. As the story unfolds, the picture becomes clearer and clearer as Sinisalo’s storytelling (and Lola Rogers’s translation) brings this whole piece to life.

As part of this world, and a major attribute of Vera/Vanna, is the illegality of capsaicin, the spicy chemical in peppers. Vera finds herself getting more and more addicted to the substance and she breaches more and more into the world hidden from society. With her need of capsaicin no longer being subdued by the current dose of small peppers, she finds a way to locate the hottest pepper.

This was like nothing I’ve ever read before. It was quite an experience I want everyone to enjoy!

Find it here through Cream & Amber or find it at your local bookstore!

Peace, Love, and Peppers,


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