Chili Pepper as an Illegal Drug
Book Review on The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

Most books don’t start with the protagonist’s sexual intercourse with a chili pepper, even if she only wants to check its quality… Johanna Sinisalo begins her book with a (literally) hot scene that captivates your attention right away.

What makes a young woman do such thing? And she’s not forced or pressured. The Core of the Sun unveils a dystopian world where the health of the citizens is above everything else. The Eusistocratic government prohibited the use of all products that are harmful to the people’s health, so alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, coffee, drugs, video games and phones are no longer available. Even chili peppers are on the black list as the capsaicin in them is the most sought-after illegal drug in this weird world. What’s more, some sellers do business with ordinary pepper powder mixed with brick dust.

You’ll understand why people use chili peppers as an illegal drug, if you find out that women are divided into two castes, whereas men are basically castrated at a social level. Sexuality became consumer goods. In the Eusistocratic system there are women who were bred to engage in sexual activity: they belong to the group of “elois” aka the beautiful, quiet and obedient members of the society. They don’t have questions or interests, they just serve men, whereas “morlock” caste members are women who were sterilized as children because they were thought to be dangerous for the society. They read and think, they are curious but don’t have standard feminine features.

The novel revolves around Vanna, a morlock caste member who seeks after her missing sister, and during her search she explores the illegal world of chili pepper trade. This deformed world crippled women and took all the things from men that made them feel masculine.

Sinisalo shows her immense creativity describing this system through nursery rhymes, news articles and formal documents. The writer guides us to the stages of social transformation and reveals the social issues that led to this dystopian world.

Johanna Sinisalo has been an outstanding representative of the Finnish weird literary genre. Her books open up about dividing topics in an unusual way, and her storytelling can’t be compared to the voice of any other authors.

The book was published in Hungary as part of the Creative Europe Program of the EU.