Tag Archives: Dystopian Fiction

Review: The Unit

The Unit Book Cover

The Unit
By Ninni Holmqvist
Translated by Marlaine Delargy
Other Press
June 2009

The Short of It:

The Unit is a cold, stark look at a world controlled by social engineering where a person’s value is reduced to categories such as “dispensable” or “necessary.”  Holmqvist creates a sterile, haunting tale that is surreal yet also a bit familiar.

The Rest of It:

Dorrit is 50 years-old, single with no children. Although she has lived a decent life, owned her own home and worked as a writer, she is dispensable. Meaning, that she has nothing else to provide society as a whole, except the organs that continue to keep her body alive.  This means that she must live out her life at the Second Reserve Bank Unit for Biological Material.

“The Unit” is deceptively pleasant. Picture a gorgeous resort, complete with spas, recreational facilities, gyms, pools, libraries, lots of restaurants to eat in and beautiful gardens. Add to that, well-appointed apartments and access to the best medical care. All of this for nothing. Well, not quite. As the residents live out their lives, they are subjected to medical experiments and research trials that include mind-altering drugs, rashes, painful skin ailments, or…organ donation if the Unit requires it. As you can imagine, some organ donations could mean the end of the line for the resident. They call this, the “final” donation and it gave me chills every time I came across the term.

Although there are rules and 24-hour surveillance cameras, the residents grow accustomed to life in the Unit and actually begin to look forward to when they can once again be necessary and contribute whatever is needed to those on the outside. As Dorrit settles into her new life, she doesn’t expect to find love so she is quite surprised when she does. This added element of complication, forces her to consider her options. None of which seem ideal.

The Unit is highly stylized in the telling. As a reader, I found myself completely absorbed in the actual structure of the Unit itself. It seemed very modern, but not too far into the distant future which was a bit unsettling to me. The author paints a bleak, chilling tale yet everyone is pleasant…polite and even caring which is surprising in that cold, antiseptic environment. The residents and staff treat each other with great respect. They function for the good of society and all seem willing to contribute in their own way. It’s frightening really. It’s perfect in one sense but completely horrific in another.

Holmqvist does an excellent job of touching on the issues. Ageism, the ability to contribute, value and self-worth are all themes here. But. I was a tad disappointed with the development of many of the characters. All of them seemed to be somewhat guarded. I wanted more emotion. There was some, but certain situations called for more. There was a numbness to them. Perhaps that was intended, given their circumstances. Needless to say, I felt a bit detached from them.

Overall, I will still recommend it to anyone who enjoys dystopian fiction, because it was good, and well written, but it didn’t leave me with the broad, sweeping… save the world feeling that I usually get from other novels like it.

Source: Purchased

Review: Mockingjay (…or where I blast certain characters for disappointing me in a big way)

Mockingjay Book Cover

***SPOILERS!***     ***SPOILERS!***   ***SPOILERS!***   ***SPOILERS!***     ***SPOILERS!***   ***SPOILERS!***   ***SPOILERS!***     ***SPOILERS!***      

By Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, Inc.
August 2010

The Short of It:

Although I enjoyed the series as a whole, this last book was a total letdown.

The Rest of It:

I imagine that the pressure to write a satisfying third installment to this series was great, but from the get-go the book sort of limps along with poor pacing and writing that was so forced in places that it actually made me wince.  I  mean really, what happened here?

In my opinion, I feel as if the author did not event attempt to deliver with this one. Why bother? People will buy it, good or bad just because of the popularity of the series itself. I am so angry over this book that I would have thrown it across the room had it not been on my Kindle.

Things that contributed to my dislike of the book:

-Katniss. I never got the “girl on fire” thing. To me, that title belongs to a heroine that blazes a path to victory. Katniss is SO not that. The constant self-deprecating, the wide-eyed innocence, etc. Girl!! Get a grip. Get it together and kick some ass!

-Gale. What happened to my lovely Gale? Bitterness! Although a lot of you may think differently, this is the only character that I feel was true in the end. Yeah, he was a bit more violent in this book and seemed to have a blatant disregard for human life, but I could see where he was coming from. His eyes were on the prize, so to speak and that prize was not Katniss. I can’t fault him for that. I  mean, how many times can a guy be turned down? My issue with him is that if he really wanted to end up with Katniss, he should have fought for it as he did for everything else.

-Peeta. Good lord. What the hell happened to Peeta? I know he was brainwashed but come on, even before the brainwashing he was…meh. He always seemed so juvenile to me and not as mature as some of the other characters. Supposedly he was a good-looking hunk with curls but it seemed as if he was sort of vacuous in my book.

-The suicide pill. So much mention of the pill yet no one took it. I sure wish some of them had.

-The entire book had this detached quality to it. Big things would happen but there would only be a little bit of description about it. Usually a startling image to send it home instead of a paragraph or two and then the chapter would predictably end with a shocking sentence like “…and then his legs blew off.”  Ugh.

-The pomp and circumstance. The costumes and make-up and base zero beauty were all too much for me. Perhaps if I thought they were going on a true hero I’d think differently, but for Katniss? Seemed like a waste of good lip gloss to me.

-Prim. Killing off Prim in a one-liner seemed like a pot shot to me. She was one of the few characters that seemed to have her act together.

-Finnick. Sort of the same feeling here. No future for the good ones I guess.

-Katniss deciding to have kids just because Peeta wanted them. What? So now you are breeding weak-minded, ambiguous little darlings to boot?

Overall, I found myself cringing throughout the book. The story itself, the plot to destroy the Capitol had promise but with such a weak crew carrying out the orders, it’s no wonder it fell apart.

When they put that crack-pot team of snipers into one special unit I couldn’t help but think they were leading the lambs to slaughter. I suppose at the end they succeeded in taking down the Capitol and that could be interpreted as success but I would have preferred a true battle of the wits instead of them putting on wigs and going undercover.

Source: Purchased for Duckie (my Kindle).