New Internationalist

The Unit

March 2010

by Ninni Holmqvist

Ninni Holmqvist’s début novel is a dystopia in the tradition of Margaret Atwood and Marge Piercy. It is set in a near-future Sweden where society is divided into ‘necessary’ individuals, who have produced offspring and who work in productive jobs, and so-called ‘dispensable’ people. Dispensable women over the age of 50 and men over 60 are sent to live in The Unit, a hermetically sealed community. Here they live apparently idyllic lives, their every need provided for and with ample access to creative endeavours.

Into this community comes Dorrit, a single, childless woman, whose profession and age decree a future spent in The Unit. Dorrit accepts her lot and initially she finds the regime congenial; she makes friends and values the stress-free nature of her days. However, the Faustian nature of the pact the dispensables have made gradually becomes clear; in exchange for unlimited creature comforts, they have agreed to donate their organs for transplantation into the necessary ones. This they will do, organ by organ until the time comes to make the Final Donation. When Dorrit falls in love with another inmate, Johannes, her acceptance of the order of things is shattered and she and Johannes must struggle against insurmountable odds to change their deadly fate.

While the premise of The Unit is fairly standard Science Fiction fare, Holmqvist paces her revelations superbly and the reader is gripped by the atmosphere of slowly mounting claustrophobia as two almost-powerless individuals confront a monolithic and ultimately evil system. 


This column was published in the March 2010 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Comments on The Unit

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

The Unit Fact File
Product information Oneworld, ISBN 9781851687442
Star rating4
Product link

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Books

All Books

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 430

New Internationalist Magazine issue 430
Issue 430

More articles from this issue

  • The pampered paws

    March 1, 2010

    A trip to the pedicurist reveals the changing face of Egypt’s middle class to Maria Golia.

  • Learning while earning

    March 1, 2010

    Cairo’s ‘garbage people’ are improving their standard of living

  • Top of the class

    March 1, 2010

    Rome is bucking the school dinner trend, providing its students with wholesome, organic fare.

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.