The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo | Book Review

Rating: 7/10

Format: Paper book – Owned


This fascinating, unusual tale came to me from my list of dystopian fiction written by women and Redditgifts! Translated from Finnish, this weird, slightly funny/disturbing book brings us into a world where humans have successfully divided themselves into four genders, with the reproducing members, female eloi and male mascos, privileged in all ways over neuterwomen and minus men. When Vanna, raised and passing as an eloi, finds out her newly-married eloi sister is missing, she turns to an illegal drug to cope, and find the funds to get her back. The drug? Capsaicin. Literally, the Finnish government has outlawed chili peppers in all of their forms.

As a self-professed “capso,” myself (I put crushed red peppers on just about every savory thing I eat from stir fry to mac and cheese to pasta). I understand, a little, how it might have some addictive properties. Especially if every other mood or mind-altering substance is near-impossible to get your hands on. I had to do a little bit of research on the book’s assertions about “your brain on capsaicin.” It turns out, though it isn’t traditionally addictive, the consumption of spicy foods is literally painful, which tricks your brain into thinking you’re literally being burned, which produces those delicious endorphins. Though not addictive in the way nicotine is, it is a singular and heightening experience, and it’s no surprise people chase the high.

I really enjoy reading translated books, but I always feel a sense of otherness and mystery. No matter how familiar or unfamiliar the setting, the writer was thinking in another language. I feel like it definitely comes across here.

I fought with whether or not to discuss the very end of this book, but I decided it is my book diary and I do what I want, so here we go.

We follow Vanna through the whole book, waiting for her to find out what happened to her little sister. When we do find out, well, we don’t? She’s high as a kite on an extremely hot pepper which seems to give her some kind of mind-powers. The implication is that her sister is locked up somewhere horrible and dirty, being used for awful activities. Vanna basically uses chili-induced astral projection to— kill her? The rest of the book is lushly detailed, but this portion is weird, rushed, and plain eerie. I was ready to give this book a really good score until the entire plot wrapped up in three incredibly confusing pages.

I am going to keep eating spicy food though.

Subjective Hearts: 3/5

Objective Hearts: 4/5


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