The Unit – Ninni Holmqvist

Translator – Marlaine Delargy

Dorrit is dispensable. Society says she’s not needed because she unmarried, childless and doesn’t work in one of the specified professions that would give her an exemption for failing to fulfil her duties as a woman. Having just turned fifty, Dorrit has earned herself a one way trip to the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material.

From now on it was important that I was kept in good condition and good health in every way. That was the whole point, after all.

It’s almost like an all expenses paid resort, where your food, entertainment, medical expenses and even shopping are on the house. All it costs is your life.

A dystopia for the childless, this book introduces readers to a democratic society that’s come to the conclusion that every body is a commodity. Those who have been designated dispensable – fifty year old women and sixty year old men who don’t have children – have all of their needs met as they participate in drug trials and experiments, and ‘donate’ their organs to the indispensable.

The best dystopias are the ones you can imagine happening. The worst dystopias are the ones you can imagine happening. This is a best-worst dystopia.

I liked Dorrit and, despite the circumstances, enjoyed seeing her belong for the first time in her life. I loved the camaraderie between her and the friends she made at the Unit. I had such hope for her when she found love.

Then I remembered this was a dystopia and all of the things I loved about this book became things that could be taken away from Dorrit and, by extension, myself as I became more and more invested in her story.

Interestingly, while I liked most of the characters, I didn’t become emotionally attached to any of them. When I learned about various characters having made their final donation I was interested but didn’t need a single tissue.

Considering how much money was being invested in keeping dispensables as healthy as possible for as long as possible (alcohol isn’t even allowed), I wondered how management would feel about the potential drug trials had to destroy previously viable organs.

Content warnings include mention of abortion. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with some scenes.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Oneworld Publications for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In paradise, nobody can hear you scream.

Ninni Holmqvist’s eerie dystopian novel envisions a society in the not-so-distant future where men and women deemed economically worthless are sent to a retirement community called the Unit. With lavish apartments set amongst beautiful gardens and state-of-the-art facilities, elaborate gourmet meals, and wonderful music and art, they are free of financial worries and want for nothing. It’s an idyllic place, but there’s a catch: the residents – known as dispensables – must donate their organs, one by one, until the final donation. When Dorrit Weger arrives at the Unit, she resigns herself to this fate, seeking only peace in her final days. But she soon falls in love, and this unexpected, improbable happiness throws the future into doubt.  

Clinical and haunting, The Unit is a modern-day classic and a spine-chilling cautionary tale about the value of human life.

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