The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo, Lola Rogers (Translation)

the core of the sunI don’t remember now how I learned about The Core of the Sun, but I am so glad I did, and so glad my public librarians are astute and consistently have almost every book I want to read. Johanna Sinisalo is Finnish, so that is unusual to have the opportunity to read books by Finnish authors. But, WOW, this book is so original and odd and the dystopia envisioned is akin to what all the critics are saying when they compare it to The Handmaid’s Tale, one of my favorite books ever.

On Goodreads, after reading some of the reviews, I wrote:

Michael’s description was well done, but did include an error: it is Vanna, the morlock lead character who becomes addicted to chilies. Manna is the sister she is looking for. And it must have been important to the author to also head the chapters with Vanna/Vera because it represents how they even took her original name away from her, just because they could or as a deliberate psychological ploy. The comment is made a bit later about not allowing women to have r in their names, but it was not explored or explained further, beyond her later meeting a morlock woman with an r in her name. But she just leaves it there, without attributing any significance to it. So I was kind of waiting for that to be a foreshadowing of a twist of some sort, or some further exploration on gendered names, but none was developed. It is a slim book, and probably would be too digressive from the narrative if she didn’t have a consistent basis for it in her world-building.

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Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen

Layout 1Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold (“A new Vorkosigan Saga Novel”)

When I read my first Bujold I was swept away by the phrasing, the characters, the world she built, and especially the sly, dry humor. Miles Vorkosigan is one of the best characters ever created in science fiction. I especially liked Brothers in Arms because it has Ivan too. Not as fond of her other more fantasy series though. This one should probably not be read until you have read all the others in the series because the entire book is peppered with references to past anecdotes that were full stories but do not carry the same punch as it would if you knew the characters involved.

p. 128 Like an army in the Time of Isolation, this reduced them to scavenging for provisions from the nearby civilian population.”

This is a highly amusing and appropriate way to describe how Cordelia and Jole, after a night in a cabin, go to the neighboring cottage that let them borrow the cabin to stay overnight. What a colorful and charming way to say “They went and got some breakfast at the landlords,”

p. 135 He laid out the plates and her tea with his usual military precision and then stood back and cleared his throat in the time-honored signal meaning, I am about to tell you something you don’t want to hear.”

 Isn’t that a great description! nothing  routine in the description of a routine. Serving food with “military precision” and instead of having Ryk simply say, “I have something to tell you” by coming at it from Cordelia’s perspective we get to know her character better, the dry humor, and the unspoken understanding between long time comrades.

Ghem Soren’s face pinched, trying to decode this; Kaya, sighing, translated, “That means no, Mikos.” Jole thought she knew very well it meant, Over my dead body,  but the lieutenant wouldn’t have been sent to him if she’d been as lacking in nous as some of the rank-and-file.”

Isn’t that great prose!  We learn that there are cultural differences that need requiring, diplomatically, and that Kaya has the respect and appreciation of her ability to grasp nuance. Plus the humor of the common but not truly serious phrase, over my dead body to most accurately establish his true opposition.

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