Book Review: “The Unit” by Ninni Holmqvist

I just finished The Unit by Ninni Homqvist and published by Other Press. It’s a great read that shines a light on what can happen when society starts looking at the population as numbers and statistics and quits seeing the people behind the numbers.

I picked up this book because I really liked the thought-provoking premise: society’s older members, who have no family or crucial job are taken to a utopian campus where every whim, wish and need are catered too. They get to live out their final years as comfortable as possible. The only catch: they are expected to participate in medical experiments and donate their body parts, for as long as they can… until their “final donation”. This society sees it as humane as it takes their poorest members, gives them the best in art and creature comforts, while maximizing their contributions to society.

It’s absurd. Sure. Crazy. But still, a great premise for this story. It’s an idea I was hoping the book would dive deep into, but it doesn’t. Instead it swirls around on the lives of the “dispensables” that are inside “The Unit” and focuses on the main character, Dorritt. All of the people in the Unit completely understand what is going on and they don’t put up a fight when they have to participate in a psychological exam, drug test, donate a kidney or even donate their lungs and heart. They see it as finally being of value to their community, on the outside.

It doesn’t take you long to accept the rules of this community and start living alongside Dorritt in the dome. The writing in this book is fantastic. It just flows in and out of conversations and offering insights into love, loss, society, ethics, etc. I was truly impressed with the author. The book flies through every emotion you can think of and every type of relationship as these people lean on each other and help each other deal with loosing body parts, going crazy, love, politics, pregnancy…

Towards the end, I knew the clock is ticking and I just wanted to know, does Dorritt escape? Does she die? But also towards the end, I didn’t wasn’t quite ready for it to be over. I enjoyed the many conversations and personalities in The Unit.

This one gets three out five stars and will be recommended often.

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