Friday, September 24, 2010

The Unit (novel)

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

This Swedish author's debut novel puts us in a dystopia set in the near future.  There are two classes of people in this time - the "dispensable", the middle aged who have yet to start a family or create ties that make them useful in society, and the "necessary", those who have started families and are contributing to the growth of society, or are of a profession that is considered valuable to the society (professors, doctors, etc).

The dispensable are brought in during their respective birth months, women upon turning 50, and men upon turning 60, to a Unit where they are housed while living out their remaining days.  These Units have wonderful accommodations, each person having their own apartments and access to dining, shopping, entertainment, parks, pools, gyms, and the such.  For these people, who have typically lived on little money and few friends, this tends to be a favorable option.  They are surrounded by people, much like them, and are put in an environment much better than the one they'd had in the "community".  In return for the monetarily free life they live, they are used as guinea pigs to experimental treatments meant to better the lives of the necessary people in the outside community and they are expected to donate organs to them until their "final donation" of the most vital organs.

This story begins upon author, Dorrit Weger's arrival at the Unit and follows her through the ups and downs of her stay.  She makes wonderful friends, continues her writing, and even falls in love.  She finds comfort in finally being able to be herself without being looked down upon for her life style and the choices she's made.

This book was a great read.  I did find small parts of it annoyingly repetitive, but it didn't turn me away from the underlying feeling that this may not be too far off from reality.  When we let society dictate our worth and in turn allow laws to be created that support the "values" of social and economic growth over a person's individuality, this is quite possibly the result.

Despite the outcome you feel lingering within the pages, the book is not all sadness and suppression (tho I did shed a tear or two towards the end).  Friendship and love bring out the humor among the dispensable, and even some compassion from the necessary.

It's not a book I would recommend to everybody, I would say you'll either really enjoy it, or you'll find it totally unappealing, there isn't much middle ground to stand on.  I ordered it on my kindle after the sample read piqued my curiosity and upon the recommendation of a friend. Sorry, you'll have to decide for yourself.

happy reading!


  1. Hmmm, sounds interesting. I'll have to check this out. Nice review!

  2. Sounds interesting, I'd sort of given up on dystopian novels. I think I read too many Margaret Atwood books and then read The Road. Depressing stuff.