I had no idea what I was expecting when I started reading this book. I kind of bought it on a whim and started reading it the day I bought it, because it sounded interesting. I’m a mood reader, so if something strikes my fancy at any particular moment, of course I’m going to read it – thus is the case with most of the books I read.
The Unit wasn’t something I had heard of before. I came across it on Amazon when I was browsing the Kindle sale, and it was only $1.99 so I figured why not? I bought it, finished the other book I was reading currently, and immediately started reading this one.
The Unit is a pretty scary book. The whole plot of this novel is just utterly terrifying, especially if you consider that this could actually one day happen. That’s one of my favorite parts of dystopian novels – they can scare the absolute hell out of you if you really stop and think about them. Sometimes they are even better than horror novels at giving you some chilling reading, because if you aren’t careful, these things can actually happen.
“If you live alone in the country you can’t afford to push away your neighbors, or fall out with them. In fact, the way I see it, you can’t afford to fall out with anyone at all if you live alone and no one needs you.”
In the future, adults over a certain age without children or spouses who are not “needed” are sent away to live at compounds known as “units.” These units house these adults, giving them food, clothing, apartments, amenities – anything they could want, and with no charge to them. They are required to live out the remainder of their days at these units, and they are able to do what they wish – except leave.
“As new arrivals we had four consecutive free days, Sunday to Wednesday. It was so we could make ourselves at home in the unit before the compulsory health check; after that we would be allocated to appropriate humane experiments or begin to donate.”
The people who inhabit these “units” are required to donate – and not money or time, but vital organs. It can start with something like a kidney, or an auditory bone in the ear, and eventually it will move up to something that you cannot live without – lungs, heart, pancreas – these are what are known as the “final donations.” These donations are the ones that everyone dreads – because they are operations that no one can come back from.
When Dorrit, a fifty year old woman who is childless and “unneeded” is sent to live at The Unit, she quickly makes friends with a few of the other new arrivals, as well as some of those who have been there for a while. She learns the ropes – what is expected of her, what kinds of donations she will most likely be giving, and how long (or short) of a stay she may have. She also learns about the different types of “humane” experiments that some can opt for, such as fitness experiments or sleep experiments.
“‘I suppose I used to believe that my life belonged to me,’ I rambled. ‘Something that was entirely at my disposal, something no one else had any claim on, or the right to have an opinion on. But I’ve changed my mind. I don’t own my life at all, it’s other people who own it.'”
Dorrit and the other members of the unit, who are surrounded by cameras 24/7, are not allowed any contact with the outside world. They are free to live their lives within the unit as they please – swimming, reading, watching movies, spending time with each other – but never leaving. At least not until that final donation.
When Dorrit finds herself in love with one of the other residents and the unthinkable occurs, it puzzles not only Dorrit herself, but also many of those who live and work within the Unit. It shows the lack of compassion, heart, and soul that are still present in humans in this time period.
“I wished I had lived at the time when people still believed in the heart. When people still believed that the heart was the central organ, containing all the memories, emotions, capabilities, defects and other qualities that make us into specific individuals. I longed to go back to an age of ignorance, before the heart lost its status and was reduced to just one of a number of vital but replaceable organs.”
This book is both heartbreaking and scary. Not scary as in like a horror kind of scary, but scary because this is something that could actually happen, if we were to allow it to.
Dorrit’s character is one of the most realistic feeling characters that I’ve come across in a really long time. She had so many feelings, so many things she wanted to say and do – and she was so well written. Her personality was practically off the page.
The overall plot of this novel really takes you into what can seem like a not-so-distant version of reality that will prompt a lot of thinking and discussions after I read this book. I must have told like 5 people about this book after I read it, because it was just the kind of book that you need to talk about after you read.
If you like dystopian novels, this is one that you should check into. It isn’t as popular of a book as it should be. There are a lot of flaws here, like some of the other characters just seeming a bit flat, and the book just feeling way too short for my liking, but all in all, it’s a deep and emotional read that will have you thinking about your future – about the future of humanity in general.