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The Unit (2006)

by Ninni Holmqvist

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
97810518,051 (3.77)1 / 87
  'I liked The Unit very much... I know you will be riveted, as I was.' Margaret Atwood 'Echoing work by Marge Piercy and Margaret Atwood, The Unit is as thought-provoking as it is compulsively readable.' Jessica Crispin, NPR.org  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.… (more)
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» See also 87 mentions

English (103)  Swedish (4)  All languages (107)
Showing 1-5 of 103 (next | show all)
What a tale of social engineering! All the independent thinkers are cordoned off from the rest of society yet given complete freedom and pampering which encourages them to accept their situation. I wonder if this is a uniquely Swedish (or European) perspective, indicating what a universal health care and basic economic support system will eventually lead to. I fully expected to find that some of the residents found ways to escape, or that (cynically) we'd discover that recipients of the body harvests were wealthy and influential people. But this turned out to be a tale of people accepting the social norm. Still, there was no real conflict to drive the story forward, so I only rate this a 3 star.
This book was highly recommended to me by a friend who is a midwife & mother of 6. I wonder how that might have made her more appreciative of it's message. ( )
  juniperSun | Mar 4, 2022 |
3.75 stars. This book takes place in Sweden, sometime in the near future. Dorret Weger has just turned 50 and must surrender her existence and dog, in order to be remanded to the Unit. 50 year old women and 60 year old men, deemed not needed by society go to the Unit, where they are subjected to various testing and organ harvesting. One is "dispensable" if s/he does not have children or does not create economic growth, so there are many artists and writers. Life is sterile but pleasant for the inhabitants, and Dorrit finds more friends than she has ever had before. Then she falls deeply in love, and miraculously gets pregnant despite her age. Has she become useful now, and what will happen to her, the father and the baby? A sympathetic worker provides her with a means to escape the Unit. Will they break out? What I liked best about this book was the way it conveyed the Swedish view of life, and a myriad of social issues. Excellent job by the translator. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
Review originally posted at Dangerously Cold Tea

On occasion, you come along novels that are so startling fresh and outspoken that they leave you thinking long after the last page. For most readers, The Unit is - or will be - one of those novels. It is a science-fiction premise but it is presented in a fashion most unlike the sci-fi we normally read: it is human and intimate in scope, yet approaches revolutionary ideas with an open-minded narrative that it's impossible to really put this book in one genre or another.

Our protagonist, Dorrit Weger, has been deemed by society expendable, so she is sent to a facility where she will be taken care of as they experiment on her person and eventually give away all her major organs away, leading to her death. She enters, perfectly resigned, but that doesn't make a good story, does it? So naturally, something happens to make her realize how terribly wrong this all is: she falls in love. And it is through this new relationship - and the memories she falls back on from time to time - that brings this character around in a new light, makes us question the novel's brave new world which we are thrust into from page one.

Like many novels of its ilk, The Unit has a controversial ending. Obviously, I won't say what happens, but it is the kind of ending to divide readers and have them question both Miss Holmqvist's motives as well as the true meaning of the story. The main question of the novel is never really answered by either Dorrit, the rest of the cast, or the narrative: is the world of the Unit wrong? That is a question better answered by the individual reader, to promote discussion over the touchy subjects brought up by Holmqvist's writing - and rightly so. Stories like 1984 and The Giver are classics because they bring up questions and leave their audience to provide their own answers. Only time will tell if The Unit will join their ranks.
( )
  sarahlh | Mar 6, 2021 |
This was a very difficult to read. I found it very disturbing. But I thought it was well done. I liked the people in the book but don't understand why they so meekly accept their fate. Not sure this is correct but I chalk it up to the fact that they are Swedish. From other books I've read I get the impression that in Sweden people live with a lot of interference in their lives and are meant to feel that there is a correct way toact. ( )
  dianeham | Mar 2, 2021 |
Quite a quiet book, a dystopia that's not chronicling a huge change. Something very believable, done in a very effective way. Beautiful translation. ( )
  MaximusStripus | Jul 7, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 103 (next | show all)
Holmqvist's spare prose interweaves the Unit's pleasures and cruelties with exquisite matter-of-factness, so that readers actually begin to wonder: On balance, is life better as a pampered lab bunny or as a lonely indigent? But then she turns the screw, presenting a set of events so miraculous and abominable that they literally made me gasp.
 

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ninni Holmqvistprimary authorall editionscalculated
Delargy, MarlaineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Toren, SuzanneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was more comfortable than I could have imagined.
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People who read books tend to be dispensable.  Extremely.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

  'I liked The Unit very much... I know you will be riveted, as I was.' Margaret Atwood 'Echoing work by Marge Piercy and Margaret Atwood, The Unit is as thought-provoking as it is compulsively readable.' Jessica Crispin, NPR.org  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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Book description
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?
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