The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

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Publication: January 5th 2016
Publisher:  Grove Press, Black Cat
Pages:  304 pages
Source: Bookmobile
Genre: Fiction, Sci-fi, Dystopia
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤⛤

Hey Finland, how’s everything going on your side of the world? With all the dystopia literature set in the States (and the current dystopia narrative currently being written), sometimes we North Americans forget that dystopia narratives can happen in other parts of the world?

You doing okay? Your society hasn’t become a feminist dystopia? Just checking in.

Okay, I know Finland isn’t becoming a feminist dystopia, but it was nice to read a dystopian novel that didn’t take place in America. For years I’ve wanted to read a dystopian novel set in Canada, and while I haven’t found one yet, I’m glad that dystopian novels from other countries are making their way here to be read.

The Core of the Sun follows Vanna, formerly Vera, who recounts in letters to her sister Manna about their journey from Spain to Finland after their parents death when they were young. When they begin their life in Finland living with their grandmother Aulikki, they must complete a gender assignment test which will tell the girls what gender they truly belong in either as an eloi, a woman who is raised and bred to procreate and please a man, or a morlock, a woman who works and is sterilized so their genes cannot infect the Finnish gene pool. Vanna is a morlock who passes as an eloi, and Manna is an eloi, and Vanna must study her sister so she can survive in her society without getting caught. As the story goes on, it is revealed that Vanna’s letters to her sister are a way for her to cope with not knowing how she died, and Vanna tries to find out what happened to her sister. While trying to find out what happened to Manna, Vanna also develops an addiction to chili peppers, and must keep her addiction in check so that she can find out what happened to her sister.

I took a Women Writer’s class in university which covered the topic of women sci-fi writers. This book wasn’t covered, since it was just published when the course started, but it would be perfect on the curriculum now. It shows the perfect

The Core of the Sun is also an interesting read because of how different it is from other dystopian novels. The obvious being that it’s set in Finland instead of the States, but probably the most notable is that Vanna doesn’t want to overthrow the Finnish government or change the way women are treated. Her story is completely focused on her trying to find out what happened to her sister and keeping her chili addiction in check, and if she happens to get herself out of the country? Not a big deal either way. After all, in this alternate history of Finland, this breeding of “perfect women” has been going on for years and years and is an accepted viewpoint of the Finnish people. Some citizens, like Jare, may want to live somewhere else because of the overall strictness of the government in terms of what is let in and out of the country, but the way women are treated is just an accepted part of society. Vanna recognizes it isn’t fair, but their’s nothing she can do about it.

The story is written in a series of letters from Vanna to Manna, then follows Vanna’s perspective, some of her eloi tests in college, a few snippets of Jare’s perspective, and some definitions and textbook excerpts about how Finland built it’s society. It’s an interesting way of formatting that both allows readers to piece together parts of the story, while learning about the fictional history without having to be confused about what is going on.

Vanna is also a terrific character. She’s smart, funny, and does whatever she wants. When she is curious about what sex will be like, she goes to Jare and they have sex and it isn’t a big deal. She has complete agency over what she does in a society where she shouldn’t. And her love for Manna is felt so clearly in the book when Manna is never actually seen. All we know of Manna is what Vanna tells us, and because Vanna loves Manna we can’t help but love her too.

The Core of the Sun is an amazing book which has such a beautiful theme of love and devotion of sisters, but at it’s core is about women’s rights and how women are seen in society and is an important read for anyone looking to read some modern feminist dystopias.

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