Will you be dispensable?

April 22, 2009

The Other Press is publishing The Unit in June, the first novel by Swedish author Ninni Holmqvistthe-unit, translated byMarlaine Delargy. From what I read in the press release, it’s sci-fi along the lines of  Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World.

Sci-fi is not a genre that calls to me, although I’ve read the aforementioned classics, and I’m currently reaching the end of an Ursula LeGuin sci-fi classic (urged upon me by a friend who says it’s one of his all-time favorites). What strikes me about The Unit is the unsettling premise of living a necessary life determined by society, let alone the concept that one could be dispensable. 

From the press release:

“In the world of The Unit, women over fifty and men over sixty who are childless, and do not contribute in ways deemed productive for society, are designated as ‘dispensable,’ and are expected to contribute in other ways. They are taken to a special reserve bank for physical and psychological experiments, where they participate in various tests – some benign, such as exercise regiments; others more dangerous, such as experimental drug therapy. …each ‘dispensable’ is expected, slowly but inevitably, to donate their vital organs to the ‘necessary’ ones, those outside the Unit.”

The Unit press release also says Holmqvist refrains from giving us simple answers, which is exactly why I’m drawn to read this soon-to-be-released novel.

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