THE UNDEFEATED by Una McCormack, is brief sci fi novella, just over 100 pages total. Monica Greatorex is a journalist known widely throughout the Interstellar Commonwealth for her reporting along the front lines of conflict. She finds herself back on the planet of her childhood, caught up in nostalgia as well as her drive to not flee from humanities’ greatest threat thus far, the jenjer.
The premise for this story is great. We have an older protagonist, who is at the height of her powers and who returns to the planet of her childhood in order to prep for the coming invasion. The quiet nature of this narrative is much like the waiting period just before a storm. Depending on how you feel about that tension and never actually witnessing what Monica is waiting for, it will greatly effect how you view this book. It reminded me of other more quiet sci fi, like that of Ted Chiang, Dainel Keyes, and others.
The jenjer, or genetically manipulated humans who have been improved but with certain costs like increased metabolism that must be regulated via meds. I wish that been explored more in full in this brief story and I think unpacking more of how humanity so easily slipped back into having indentured servants would have fleshed out some of these overarching ideas .
Yet, McCormack does a truly good job with telling Monica’s story of regret and search for fulfillment that give merits to the story all on their own. Well, that and the fact that the prose is incredibly readable. McCormack’s skill at unpacking Monica’s life experiences and internal warring with herself is intriguing and some of the best subconscious writing I’ve read.
By the end of the story I wanted more and I hope there will be more, if not of Monica, then more of this Interstellar Commonwealth. Don’t miss out on this little novella!