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The Unit

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  8,851 ratings  ·  1,305 reviews
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 fift ...more
Trade Paper, 268 pages
Published June 9th 2009 by Other Press (NY) (first published August 29th 2006)
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Graham Oliver It's definitely a similar premise, and the narration is a little similar in tone, but the bulk of the novel about The Unit is significantly different …moreIt's definitely a similar premise, and the narration is a little similar in tone, but the bulk of the novel about The Unit is significantly different from the bulk of Never Let Me Go.(less)

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Average rating 3.74  · 
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Oct 11, 2009 rated it liked it
hmmm. so this was supposed to be for my "october is dystopian/apocalyptic month." and for most people, this book would definitely fall on the dystopian side of things. am i crazy for thinking i could thrive (for a few years anyway, until i run out of parts) in this type of environment? here's the rundown: if ladies don't have kids by the age of 50, and men by 60, and they have no elderlies of their own to take care of, or a job that involves caring for others (teacher, doctor, etc), they get shi ...more
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-library
For women turning 50 (60 for men), it is the beginning of the end. You have no children, no partner, no one depending on you. You have just become officially dispensable. You are about to be installed in the Reserve Bank Unit. The longer you can contribute, the longer you live.

Plausible? Nah. Not a bit. It doesn't keep this from being disturbing as hell, especially if you are no longer a young'un.
The Unit is billed as a Sci-Fi dystopia. If so, it's just barely so. It's speculative with a lower case "s" but little more than that.

Told in the first person by Dorrit Weger -- the most insipid, pathetic, annoying narrator I've read in years -- The Unit is about a future in Sweden where old "dispensable" people (women at fifty and men at sixty who have no families or partners who've avowed love for them), are harvested for their organs and made subjects for medical testing while living the cush
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Cool, so not everything creepy that comes out of Sweden is good. I don't mean to delight in someone else's failure or proudly self-identify as 'Murican or anything, but I'm only human, and Sweden was starting to feel like America's prettier, more talented friend, with their Let the Right One In to our Twilight and their bands like The Knife to our Lady Gaga. Making us look like assholes. Which we are, but that's a discussion for another time and place. Anyway, haha. Nice dystopian "horror" there ...more
Mar 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Dystopian literature seems dominated by books with courageous and defiant teen protagonists. While some are enjoyable, the majority I cannot relate to. I rarely connect with a 15- or even 20-year old and get annoyed that more and more dystopia and science fiction are centered around teenage characters. 

It was a relief to see this dystopian novel that has a middle-age woman as the MC. While I had some minor issues with this novel, for the most part I enjoyed it.

It's set in Sweden in the near futu
The Unit is the saddest piece of dystopian fiction I have ever read. Normally the genre leaves me angry or frightened or feeling the need for a good shower, but this made me feel heartbroken. The Unit is a place where women who have reached the age of 50 and men who have reached the age of 60 without having children are sent to live in order to participate in "humane" experiments and act as organ donors for the so-called needed. These people are known as dispensable.

The story portrayed is one wh
Jan 10, 2021 rated it it was ok
The premise of the novel was good. It was the telling…the boring details…I think this could have been at best a novella with what sketch this author developed. Not 268 pages.

The premise: Men at age 60 and women at age 50 who are single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries (from inner cover of dust jacket) are housed in very comfortable environs…sort of like a very nice assisted-living facility with shops, a theater, restaurants, etc. etc. And you are expected to over the course
In the world this novel portrays, the 'dispensable' are sent to live in self-contained communities known as 'units'. Being dispensable means you are over 50 (if you're a woman) or 60 (if you're a man), single, childless, with no dependent older relatives, and work in a 'non-essential' job. In seemingly idyllic surroundings like those of the 'Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material', the dispensable can live as they please, with a shopping centre, theatre, cinema, art gallery, regular pa ...more
There are cases where I don't agree with the premise of a book, either because of my hangups or because it seems far out, and I still like the book. That's not the case with this book. It was distracting in its similarity in concept to one of my favorite books ever, Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. And I can only say that this book disappointed in contrast.

I was not moved by this book, even though I was supposed to have been. I was more concerned with how this is even viable. The dispensable se
Nov 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
This was nearly a five star book for me and I don't give those out very often--probably only a few of them in the hundreds of books I've rated since starting this a few years ago. The only reason it didn't get 5 stars was because of the ending--big mistake for Holmqvist that didn't ruin it for me but it could have been a real classic dystopian novel. It was still really, really good but five stars is for the elite of the elite to me.

The Unit is set in Sweden in the near future and is a dystopia
Suzanne (Chick with Books) Yester
Ninni Holmqvist's novel is compelling and disturbing at the same time. From the first turn of the page I was drawn into the futuristic world where childless women who have reached the age 50 and childless men at age 60 are "welcomed" into The Unit. A beautiful spa like setting with walking paths, beautiful gardens', wonderful food, medical experiments and body harvesting from their "residents". Our protagonist is Dorrit, a woman who never had a steady job, had a lover who lived with someone else ...more
Lisa Vegan
May 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of dystopic novels
Recommended to Lisa by: Lee
There is a good summary of the plot in the book’s description field (it’s basically what I read in/on the book’s cover) so I don’t see the need to repeat any of the information in my review.

I loved this book and I think it is excellent, but it is also the most personally depressing book I’ve ever read, worse than The Bell Jar when I was 19, maybe as bad as As We Are Now if I read at age 79 or 80 vs. reading it first when I was 19 or 20.

Recipe for feeling devastated by this book (even more than t
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am a bit ambiguous about this book. The translator did a wonderful job translating the story into English. And it was very fast paced and enjoyable.

What has me torn is the fact there is another book with a similar premiss. Just that the age group is different. So I am having a hard time separating the two.

Aside from that, it is a wonderful story.
May 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Misha by: The Alternative World
Shelves: novel, 2010, dystopia
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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 ...more
At the end of this book I cried. Not with sadness at Dorrit's sacrifice and losses. But because since I've been an adult, I've never read a book that I felt so understood me. Those were the words I thought to myself as hot tears came to my eyes: "she understands." It is Elsa I cried for. And all the others.

When you read a lot, you recognize that those tropes you hear about how there are oly 7 plots in the world (or 10 or 5 or 3) are true. So when you run across a book with a truly novel point of
Michelle Morrell
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Unit is a near future, Swedish take on dystopia. In here, being useful or needed is the highest priority, and your contribution to society is crucial. Women aged 50 and men 60 that are considered "dispensable" are taken to a complex where they are expected to life a life of comfort and companionship and do their part for society through medical and psychological experiments, tissue donation, and, eventually, final donation.

I was struck by a few things here. First, what the Swedish dystopian
Wow I just flew through The Unit, and now my heart just aches for Dorrit, the Dispensables and for the society.

It's the near-future in Sweden, a society that values capital and societal value above individual life. If you are childless, not in a protected job, have no dependents and no loving relationship, you are considered to be "dispensable." Dispensables are taken to The Unit at age 50 for women or 60 for men-i.e. after they are no longer reproductively viable, with the intent to give back t
Mar 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
Brief synopsis: Dorrit turns 50 in a dystopian future Scandinavia, where people her age are politely imprisoned and harvested for parts if they've not managed to establish a family.

I wanted to love this book, because I love dystopian novels, and I've loved a couple other books with similar themes (notably Never Let Me Go and The Handmaid's Tale, two of my favorite novels). And while I liked it fine, I didn't manage to fall in love with Dorrit or her story. It delved into some themes that have so
Feb 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dystopia
If you are feeling philosophical, depressed, and in a very dark place - and you want to stay in that dark place of despair, this is the book for you! There is nothing happy, uplifting, or strengthening about this depressing dystopia set in Sweden where everyone over 50, and childless, is locked up to be human guinea pigs and organ donors until they die (within a few years).

Our hero, Dorrit, turns 50 and has been in an affair with a married man, so she has nobody to vouch for her that she is lov
Claire Fuller
3.5 stars. This was a very readable, but slightly flawed dystopian novel set in the near future (technology has hardly changed). When women reach 50 and men reach 60 they are taken out of society and live in 'the unit' if they aren't carers (for children, for older people etc). The unit is luxurious and we follow Dorrit as she comes into the unit, makes friends, and finds love. All people placed there - dispensibles - have to participate in all sorts of trials of drugs and psychological tests, d ...more
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lauren by: NPR Book Notes
"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, by Ninni Holmqvist, translated from Swedish by Marlaine Delargy.

In a near future world, childless adults, 50+ years of age, are sent to The Unit, an institutional facility where they live out the remainder of their lives. In this facility, they are subjected to medical and pharmaceuti
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book reminded me of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Both are dystopian concerning a society that condones using a certain class of individuals as the source of organs and other body parts to keep others alive. The author of this book is Swedish and the book is set in Sweden. As I was reading, I kept thinking that I would probably appreciate the book more if I know more about Sweden and its political climate - past and present. Without that, I struggled to understand how the law that thos ...more
Stephanie Jane
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

The Unit is a dystopian novel set almost entirely within the confines of the Second Reserve Bank Unit which is a complete living facility for older people that society at large has deemed dispensible. As readers, we don't know how this legal situation came about or what drove their country to create these facilities, but we can see from the people who end up there how society's priorities lie. The novel is Swedish authored and set in Sweden s
Aug 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: women who say they would give anything for a year or two of peace and quiet to work on their writing
A very strong four stars, and I'm so pleased! This could not have been paced more salubriously. I also finished Girl With the Dragon Tattoo recently, and I'm just loving these Swedes' plotting and pacing. (Then again, I've always been a sucker for anything remotely Scandinavian.)

I've been a rabid Dollhouse fan since the beginning, so I was already familiar and infatuated with the premise of the "serene spa-like environment*" in which inhumane, insidiously pseudo-consensual slavery takes plac
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi
I think I was drawn to the cover. (Very nice cover.) That and the jacket made me cross my fingers and hope for something reminiscent of Michael Bay's "The Island" (sue me; it's entertaining), Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let me Go," and Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale." And it does end up being difficult not to compare themes in "The Unit" to "Never Let Me Go": passivity, life, death, humanity, worth, acceptance.

As a 38-year old woman who just recently found love, the premise of "The Unit" int
Dec 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2020
This was... fine? But honestly too fucking depressing for pandemic reading. It's the story of a society that deems un-partnered and childless people over a ~certain age~ to be no longer "useful," so they're shuffled off to centers where they're fed, entertained, and kept comfortable—while also being used as guinea pigs for scientific and pharmacological experimentation.

Why did I think this was the thing to pick up in month six of quarantine?!
Laura Rash
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not at one moment in reading this did I lose interest. I could’ve finished it in one day of life hadn’t gotten in my way. Slightly futuristic and dystopian but actually more of a story of life and funny turns it can take. Just loved it!
Kara Babcock
The kind of dystopian novel I’m often lukewarm about, The Unit has a blurb on the front cover from Margaret Atwood, which really tells me all I need to know. It’s science-fictional but also hangs on to that notional “literary fiction” tag, as if it doesn’t want to stoop too much into the genre ghetto. Whereas Kazuo Ishiguro’s dive into organ donation is a meditation on personhood, Ninni Holmqvist is more interested in the value of certain types of people—namely childless, older people. Not at al ...more
Aug 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Unit is at once a painful book to read and yet remarkably absorbing. It is so believable that it horrified me. Once I finished reading it, I felt like a swimming pool inflatable with all the air let out, left to bob hopelessly under a darkened sky. The story (which is a first person narrative) tells us about Dorrit who has just turned fifty and is taken to the unit. Any woman who gets to the age of fifty and any man who gets to the age of sixty without having any dependents are classed as di ...more
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Nordic Book Club: June 2017 - The Unit 1 17 Jun 27, 2017 08:55PM  
Could you recommend novels about pharmaceutical companies? 1 19 Nov 10, 2013 02:26PM  

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Ninni Holmqvist lives in Skåne, Sweden. She is the author of three short-story collections, including 'Kostym (Suit)', and two novels. She also works as a translator. ...more

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“I was happy in the dream; but when I woke up it was with a feeling that I was falling apart, that I was cracking up from the inside and slowly falling to pieces. My heart was jumping and grating like a cold engine that doesn't want to start. My skin was crawling, and I couldn't manage a single clear thought. It was as if all my thoughts were crushed to bits just as they began to take shape. I didn't get much done that day.” 23 likes
“People who read books," he went on, "tend to be dispensable. Extremely.” 14 likes
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