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Review: The Unit

July 25, 2009

The Unit

Dorrit is being checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material.  Everyone is sent to a unit like this after they reach a certain age (50 for women, 60 for men) if they’re considered “dispensable.”  Dispensable means no one needs them and they aren’t in careers that are considered necessary for society.  At first, Dorrit is nervous and disturbed, but quickly adjusts to life in The Unit.

Dorrit is sent to The Unit because she is 50 years old, doesn’t have a steady income (she’s a writer) and doesn’t have a spouse, children or parents who need her.  She is physically fit and mentally stable and had to give her beloved dog away before being sent to The Unit.  Although she misses her dog terribly, Dorrit seems resigned to her fate.  She says,

Anyway: those who safeguard growth and democracy and welfare, they’re the ones who own my life.  They own everyone’s life.  And life is capital.  A capital that is to be divided fairly among the people in a way that promotes reproduction and growth, welfare and democracy.  I am only a steward, taking care of my vital organs.

The Unit is like a city in one large building.  It contains apartments, restaurants, a gym, a hospital, a library, etc.  The people housed there have all of their needs taken care of, but they are used for scientific experiments and “donations.” Those who are considered dispensable donate organs, blood, etc for those who are needed – sometimes it’s something like a cornea, but sometimes it’s a final donation – heart, lungs, etc.

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist is a disturbingly compelling book.  I think I found it particularly disturbing since I turned 50 on my last birthday.  I was touched by Dorrit and her longing for her dog, Jock, because I know I would feel the same way if I had to give my dog away.  I kept wondering if I could adjust to life in a giant, windowless building like she did.  This book raises lots of moral and ethical questions and really made me think about the value of human life – of all human life, whether others deem that life as necessary or not.  I really enjoyed this fascinating and thought provoking read – the story and the moral dilemmas it examines will stay with me for a while.

Review copy provided by Other Press.

40 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2009 6:51 am

    Very nice review, as always! I think this book might be a little too disturbing for me though, since I will turn 50 in a few short months and I simply cannot stand the thought of leaving my dogs for any extended period of time.

    It is great to have the time to read your blog again. I missed it!

  2. July 25, 2009 7:29 am

    Great review, Kathy! I have this one coming up and I’m glad you found it so compelling. You would never have to worry about going to a Unit. WE need you too much!

  3. July 25, 2009 8:34 am

    I think just the review is going to stay with me – that is such a terrifying concept and then for her to sound so accepting makes me feel uneasy just thinking about it.

  4. July 25, 2009 8:39 am

    I had much the same reaction to the book. Thought-provoking, but it hit a little too close to home to be really enjoyable. I always find the idea of going peacefully to the slaughterhouse more than a little disturbing, even if the larger society thinks it’s in a good cause. Of course, good science fiction (or speculative fiction) is supposed to be a little disturbing, isn’t it?

  5. July 25, 2009 8:54 am

    Good review! I feel ready for The Unit myself! But really, add 30 years and look at nursing homes…. Nobody wants their organs but otherwise it sounds pretty much the same!

  6. July 25, 2009 9:57 am

    Gulp! I wonder if I’d end up in the Unit! Sounds like a thought-provoking novel.

  7. July 25, 2009 10:06 am

    I really enjoyed your review. I added this to my TBR list recently and this is the first review I’ve seen.

    I’m so curious as to what happens in the end. I’m a little far away from 50 but I can definitely put myself in Dorrit’s shoes. It makes me think of what my life will be like at that age. Will I have a family or job that needs me?

    I do know for a fact that I’ll have at least one dog =) I’m a big pet lover. But I don’t know about the giving away part. I’d probably fight for my babies lol.

  8. July 25, 2009 10:24 am

    You’re just a bit younger than me, does this book remind you a little of an old movie…”Soylent Green is people!”……….

  9. stacybuckeye permalink
    July 25, 2009 10:33 am

    Great review. Not sure it’s for me though. I’d probably be a basket case when she had to give up her dog!

  10. July 25, 2009 10:49 am

    Great review, though I’m taking a pass on this one, too – I’ve read something somewhat similar which shall remain nameless because for those who haven’t read it the “donation” part is not immediately revealed. This one does sound compelling and disturbing and that’s exactly why I think I need to stay away from this one. I still think often about the other one I read!

  11. July 25, 2009 12:02 pm

    I have not had a chance to read this book yet, but it sounds very interesting. I was just going to ask if you’ve read ….. when I noticed that Gwendolyn B. must be talking about the same ‘donation’ book. I never thought about that being a spoiler, but I guess it would be. I’ll have to pick up the book and do a comparison. Thanks for the review.

  12. July 25, 2009 12:17 pm

    Every time I see a review of this I want to read it, which is exactly the opposite reaction I usually have when one book gets tons of reviews in a short period.


  13. July 25, 2009 12:37 pm

    I have this on my TBR pile. Sounds like I am in for a read when I get a chance to get to it!

  14. July 25, 2009 12:43 pm

    darn, don’t have this one.
    As another 50+ person, yes, it hits a bit too close to home and I am starting to think it is not as totally unbelievable as it one was.
    are there books in The Unit? I hope there will be books…. Oh, I guess so, since there is a library 😉

  15. July 25, 2009 1:13 pm

    Good review! This is the first time I’ve heard about this book and I’m adding it to my TBR list.
    I have quite a way to go to 50 but it does sound scary.

  16. July 25, 2009 1:52 pm

    Terrific review and I know how you feel about Jock’s part in the story – I found that aspect very emotional. The whole book was filled with things that I’m still thinking about, which to me means it was excellent.

  17. July 25, 2009 2:08 pm

    I thought leaving the dog behind would be a major horror, too. It certainly makes you think. I’m glad you enjoyed The Unit!

  18. July 25, 2009 2:12 pm

    Man, I can’t wait to get to this one. Thanks for the in depth, thoughtful review. This sounds a lot like The Island. Creepy but interesting.

  19. July 25, 2009 3:17 pm

    Sounds like this would make a wonderful discussion book!

  20. Carol permalink
    July 25, 2009 5:21 pm

    I agree with Julie, it does sound like it would bring up some interesting discussion topics. I find it scary, though.

  21. July 25, 2009 6:01 pm

    Wow this book sounds intense! I think I put it on my wish list, but I had better check on that. I don’t want to miss it. 🙂

  22. July 25, 2009 6:24 pm

    Great review! I’m adding it to my TBR list! 🙂

  23. July 25, 2009 8:09 pm

    This looks really good to me. On my list it goes; thanks again.

  24. July 25, 2009 8:54 pm

    The bit with the dog gave me such empathy for Dorrit that I’m going to have to add this to my wishlist. I’d be heartbroken if I had to leave my Murchie behind.

  25. July 26, 2009 12:16 am

    Wow, this sounds like an amazing and disturbing book. I will have to add this one to my wish list….(I keep saying that when I read your reviews, LOL).
    Are you posting from vacation????

  26. July 26, 2009 12:49 am

    Wonderful review – I’ve had this on my wish list for a while – I’m hoping to get it for my birthday!

  27. July 26, 2009 10:30 am

    Thought provoking? Yes, your review is thought provoking so I’m sure the entire novel would keep me awake thinking. Says something about how we feel about our citizens as they age.

  28. July 26, 2009 1:18 pm

    Glad you found this one interesting. I’ve got it coming up to read as well. Especially scary for me since I’m single with only a dog.

  29. July 26, 2009 2:34 pm

    Just stopped by your Blog..and found this review. I am a long time fan of Dystopian fiction..and have heard…things…about THE UNIT..your review has given me the impetus (?) to read the darn thing…and i am 58…so you know what my “fate” would have been in this story….


  30. July 26, 2009 9:17 pm

    Wow. I’ve seen this around bookstores and want to check it out .Thanks for the great review. I’m a little intimidated by dystopias but I might make an exception!

  31. July 27, 2009 7:21 am

    50 is way too young to be hauling people away from their lives to live in some institution and await to be donors. That must have definitely added an interesting extra dimension to your reading.

  32. July 27, 2009 7:29 am

    The premise sounds really interesting, something like ‘Never let me go’.

  33. July 27, 2009 11:39 am

    I got this book in the beachbag of books giveaway but haven’t read it yet. You’ve tempted me to pick it up…

  34. July 27, 2009 1:19 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed this book! I really found it compelling as well.

  35. July 28, 2009 10:16 am

    This sounds like a fascinating book. I’ve heard great things, though not sure I could handle giving my dog away for any reason!

  36. July 28, 2009 3:40 pm

    The title reminded me of the TV show but the synopsis sounds more like the movie The Island but in reverse. Very disturbing a creepy nonetheless!

  37. July 29, 2009 1:05 pm

    I think this sounds very intriguing. Glad you liked it.

  38. July 29, 2009 3:51 pm

    I can’t imagine but I guess it’s possible someday this could occur. How big is the world’s population these days?
    Very thought provoking. Thanks Bermuda.

  39. July 30, 2009 9:13 pm

    This sounds more than a little freaky! And if I had just turned 50, it would be even more freaky! May this never come true!

  40. July 31, 2009 8:24 am

    This one is in my stack to read in August. I’m looking forward to it, as it sounds like it gives you a lot to think about.


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