The Unit

Ninni Holmqvist's fertility sci-fi imagines a dystopia based upon a woman's physical productivity--be they making babies or being harvested for vital organs--in the book The Unit.

If you’ve been pushing the snooze button on your biological clock, The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist will leave you antsy to start making babies—or it would, if you lived in Holmqvist’s modern dystopia. Her novel, originally published in Swedish, is an eloquent account of the thoughts and emotions of a middle-aged woman in a hypothetical but entirely possible future society that values baby-producing families over single ladies.

In Holmqvist’s society, all childless, aging, “unproductive” members of society are relegated to the status of living organ donors and scientific test subjects. And so Dorrit Weger, a childless writer living independently, is deemed a “dispensable” individual, and after her 50th birthday, is carted away to the Second Reserve Bank Unit. Despite her misgivings, Dorrit discovers that, if one can forget the constant video surveillance, lack of windows, and looming specter of the “final organ donation” (when a vital organ is removed and given to a family person in the outside world), the Unit is an indoor paradise. Everything in the shops is free, restaurants serve gourmet meals, and there is a massive indoor garden and elaborate sports and arts facilities. But Dorrit gradually realizes that the Unit is really just a “luxury slaughterhouse,” as her friend Elsa refers to it.

When the system begins to show its weak points and Dorrit is confronted by an unexpected situation, she is forced to consider whether escape is an option or whether life, despite its drawbacks, really is better inside the Unit. Sometimes moving, other times disturbing, this book is a page-turner that explores human discrimination taken to a whole new level.

 
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