3.5 out of 5: In the dystopic world of The Unit, 50-year-old women and 60-year-old men who haven’t yet contributed to society by marrying, having children, or holding down useful careers are deemed “dispensable.” Such dispensables are spirited away to secured Units where they participate in medical experiments and organ donation—first a kidney or a cornea, and, after a couple years, a “final donation.” On her 50th birthday, Dorrit Weger, a solitary, childless writer, is transported to the Unit, a carefully controlled paradise filled with lush gardens, diverse entertainments, and lavish buffets. The close-knit community inside the Unit sparks an emotional reawakening within Dorrit, though it might be too late. Ultimately, Dorrit must make a difficult decision: Will she embrace life and fight for freedom, or will she accept the quiet death dictated by society?
Holmqvist’s eerie vision raises the question of what, if anything, we owe to society in return for our right to exist. Written in unadorned prose (nicely translated by Marlaine Delargy), The Unit is straightforward, suspenseful, and fast-paced. Holmqvist meticulously details life on the inside, down to the array of flowers in the winter garden and the quality of simulated daylight in the rooms. While the details add to the overall creepiness of this dystopia, Holmqvist spends too much time on the setting at the expense of character development. Overall, The Unit is a chilling and entertaining, if somewhat simplistic, exploration of a future where people must prove their worth to society or die.