The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Dystopic Fiction
One day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state of the art recreation facilities, and live the few remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty–single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries–are sequestered for their final few years; they are considered outsiders. In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. Despite the ruthless nature of this practice, the ethos of this near-future society and the Unit is to take care of others, and Dorrit finds herself living under very pleasant conditions: well-housed, well-fed, and well-attended. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful. But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and…well, then what?
I have seriously mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I liked the premise and plot, and I really want to like the book. However, I didn’t really like the characters at all and couldn’t understand their decisions, and I hated the ending. A lot. So…yeah.
I really liked the idea behind the story of a population of people forced to become organ donors/test subjects. It’s a perfect model of a controlling government that’s not simply cruel. They let people have a long life before they send them to the biological reserve bank. They treat them well once they’re in the bank, and the people we meet who run the place seem nice. It’s an interesting concept, and the plot itself is executed well.
The characters, though, fell flat. I just couldn’t get into the heads of any of them. Dorrit, the main character, wants to be a strong, independent woman who doesn’t rely on anyone else, but she also relishes in having man take care of her. She makes friends, but they never seem to become close. It’s just assumed for the sake of the story that they are.
And then there’s the ending. Oh god, the ending. I just stared at the back cover of the book for about ten minutes after I finished the book. I just couldn’t believe what had happened, and it wasn’t in a good way. It was a total departure of character yet again, and it just made me angry.
So after that extremely long and convoluted review, I have determined nothing at all. I do recommend the book to people who enjoy dystopic fiction, because this twists it in an interesting way. But don’t go into expecting a fantastic novel.