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The Unit

by Ninni Holmqvist

genre: dystopian

After discarding The Girl in the Steel Corset, I found the humble book The Unit. Find out why I gave it 5 out of 5 stars!


(Taken from Goodreads)

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 had been desperately looking for a dysptopian or steampunk novel with no avail. I tried The Girl in the Steel Corset to end up thoroughly disappointed. I didn’t want a hopeless YA novel that felt like a terrible hollywood flick. I wanted something real, something I could connect with.

From the futuristic Swedish universe where individuals without children over a certain age become dispensable, to the honest narrator, this book captured me. The descriptions/writing style weren’t necessarily overwhelming. There was a humble quality about the entire piece that I couldn’t tear myself away from.

Maybe it was because I had just come from trying to read about a petty 16 year old who had a “good” and “dark” side (The Girl in the Steel Corset), that I loved Dorrit, the 50 year old woman. She isn’t particularly easy to like at first but I wanted to cradle her by the end of it. There was such brutal authenticity about her character.  I haven’t read many stories, if any, whereby the main characters are middle-aged. What made this story so great was that I could believe what was going on. This could’ve been a diary. The romance and sex scenes weren’t unrealistic or made me laugh. It was different because these two characters carried decades of history and experience, they knew who they were and what they wanted. And that, is what made the story so much more heartbreaking since they were “dispensable”.

It’s not an uplifting story, it’s not a revolutionary story. It’s not really even a story about romance. It’s a heartbreaking story because you follow these people who are experimented on and their organs removed for others in society who are “needed” individuals (i.e. with children). While I finished the story with an uncertain ache in my chest, it wasn’t a book about constant sorrow either. It’s a story that I can’t put my finger on what it was. But it was so beautiful. It made me think and wonder. Could a society like this exist? Or better yet, how many out there are withering away because they are “dispensable”?

Since I study psychology, a topic that comes up from time to time is the rise of depression in those who are middle-aged and elderly. It is usually due to not feeling needed, important or useful for their own families or society. I don’t think it’s right to put those who are “dispensable” into a place so drastic as The Unit where they wait to die. But…isn’t that what nursing homes are like? While there are no experiments or organs donated, are they not simply waiting to die? Mmm…

Usually, a short story like this would probably warrant a 4 or a 4.5 but because of how much I have been able to think and reflect on The Unit and Dorrit, I can’t help but give it a 5.

5 out of 5 stars

amazonbutton2 copyThis book is for you if:

  • Short, humble and meaningful stories.
  • Fictional universes that make you think.

This book is not for you if:

  • Are uncomfortable with the idea of human experimentation.
  • Are uncomfortable with relatively graphic, but brief, sex scenes.
  • Want a fast action plot or a mindless, fun read.

Ermisenda Alvarez

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