The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo, translated by Lola Rogers

The Core of the Sun4ish stars.

It seems like half of the reviews for this book begin with some version of “what a weird book,” a sentiment that I absolutely echo. So strange. It doesn’t have quite the power and completeness of The Handmaid’s Tale, to which there are obvious thematic similarities, but what it lacks in depth, it makes up for in humor and heart (and, of course, “spiciness”). Take the first line, “I lift my skirt, pull aside the waistband of my underwear, and push my index finger in to test the sample.” What a beginning, eh?

Obviously inspired by other classic works, particularly The Time Machine, this novel is a decidedly Finnish take on dystopia, which apparently means that it’s really weird. It’s an interesting format, partly epistolary, with definitions and snippets of societal terms and examples. Some chapters feature letters written by the main character to her sister and the letters bring much of the novel’s heart. When the letters stop halfway through, something seems to be missing and the pace dips a bit until an exciting finale.

Again, it isn’t fleshed out quite as much at Atwood’s modern classic and the characterizations are not quite comprehensive enough to elicit a significant amount of sympathy, but it’s interesting – unique, even as it walks in the footsteps of greater novels. It’s worth a read. Lola Rogers, who translated the book from Finnish to English deserves a lot of praise for her work here as well.

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