Release Date: May 14, 2019
Publisher: Tor.com Publishing
Genre: Science Fiction
“She was a warrior of words.
As a journalist she exposed corruption across the Interstellar Commonwealth, shifting public opinion and destroying careers in the process.
Long-since retired, she travels back to the planet of her childhood, partly through a sense of nostalgia, partly to avoid running from humanity’s newest–and self-created–enemy, the jenjer.
Because the enemy is coming, and nothing can stand in its way.”
Having recently turned 60, Monica Greatorex begins to reflect on her life. She’s gone from adventure to adventure, thrilling the galaxy with her non-fiction stories of war and suffering and survival. She has money, more money than she could ever spend, and her best days are behind her. At the same time, a threat looms on the horizon. The escaped jenjer – humans-turned-genetically enhanced slaves – are returning to loose their wrath on their former slavers.
With her own jenjer, Gale, in tow, Monica makes her way to her homeworld at the edge of the Commonwealth. Millions are abandoning the outer reaches of civilization, leaving her planet desolate and decaying. There she will watch as the oppressed begin their campaign to overthrow their oppressors. But she’s not there just as a journalist. She carries guilt of her own for her dismissive treatment of jenjer when she was a child and what Gale may think of her now. It’s too late to make systemic change, so the best she can do is bear witness to the end of her era and the dawn of the jenjers’.
Although the limitations of the novella format prevents Una McCormack from anything deeper than a surface exploration of oppression and subjugation, I appreciate her not trying to answer every question or finding a way to let Monica off the hook. She isn’t the worst of the jenjer slavers, but she still willingly participates in the system. Not until she’s forcibly confronted with the reality of their enslavement does she question whether the system is just, and by that point it’s way too late for reparations. There’s nothing she can do to make up for her actions except stand aside.
Propulsive and engaging, The Undefeated hooks you in immediately and never lets go. I meant to only start the novella, but within a few pages I knew I wasn’t going to put it down until the last page. Definitely a must-read!
At Meridian Station, it became impossible to deny that everyone else was going the other way. The station was busy – no, frantic – although not yet with the pitiful desperation that Monica had seen in the many transit camps from which she had reported in her glory days. Many of the people here were greatly invested in showing that this was a temporary arrangement and that they would soon be returning this way, bringing their possessions back with them. A winter holiday, perhaps, or spending a few years on the central worlds for the sake of the children’s education…Anything other than admit that this was a one-way ticket. Was this for the benefit of observers, or for the benefit of themselves? Monica sensed that it was a little of both.
Thanks to Tor.com Publishing for sending me a review copy.
Do the world a favor and buy this book from your local indie bookstore or borrow it from your public library.