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The Eusistocratic Republic of Finland has bred a new human sub-species of receptive, submissive women, called "eloi," for sex and procreation, while intelligent, independent women are relegated to menial labor and sterilized so that they do not carry on their "defective" line. Vanna, raised as an eloi but secretly intelligent, needs money to help her doll-like sister, who has disappeared. Vanna forms a friendship with a man named Jare, and they become involved in buying and selling a stimulant known to the Health Authority to be extremely dangerous: chili peppers. Then Jare comes across a strange religious cult in possession of the Core of the Sun, a chili so hot that it is rumored to cause hallucinations. Does this chili have effects that justify its prohibition? How did Finland turn into the North Korea of Europe? And will Vanna succeed in her quest to find her sister, or will her growing need to satisfy her chili addiction destroy her?
Johanna Sinisalo s tautly told story of fight and flight is also a feisty, between-the-lines social polemica witty, inventive, and fiendishly engaging read.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-10-12
- Reviewer: Staff
Finnish author Sinisalo (Troll: A Love Story) spins a dystopian tale in her latest. The novel opens in a cemetery, where an illegal transaction of capsaicin, the ingredient in chilies that gives them their heat, is underway; Vanna meets an unknown seller to get a sample of the product, which she tests by shoving it into her underwear. What kind of world bans spice? In a series of personal accounts, letters, dictionary entries, and excerpts from historic source materials, we learn that life in the Eusistocratic Republic of Finland is dictated and controlled by the Health Authority, which unlike the European Decadent states bans substances for the supposed health of its citizens. It also divides its citizens into sexual hierarchies. Elois (the terms are borrowed from H.G. Wells) are females who have been bred for their beauty and submissive traits; only they (as opposed to morlocks) are legally allowed to reproduce. Despite the various sources, the heart of the story belongs to Vanna. Born in Spain and raised on a farm along with her beloved sister, Manna, by Aulikki, their grandmother, after their parents death, Vanna looks like an eloi but her intelligence and curiosity make her something else, a secret that Aulikki helps her protect. When Mannas mysterious death drives Vanna to addiction, she joins with Jare, a former farmhand on the property, to sell chilies. Being an eloi makes a good cover, but the Authority appears to be closing in on the whole underground, including a cult that prizes chilies above all. Sinisalo is at her best when describing the action; she makes you feel the heat of those chilies, but relies a bit too much on letters from Vanna to her sister for exposition. Still, this is an unusual and fun story with a strong dose of social commentary. Agent: Elina Ahlback, Elina Ahlback Literary. (Jan.)