The Undefeated (Book Review)
by Una McCormack
Thank you to NetGalley for the free e-book!
The Undefeated is a novella, following war journalist Monica Greatorex. The story itself does not concern her time on the front lines, but begins when she’s in her 60s, visiting the near-abandoned planet of her youth. The defining moment of her life is revealed through her memories, as well as her struggle to reconcile how her privileged life contributed to the threat now heading towards humanity and its many colonized worlds.
Despite the amount of backstory required to understand the universe Monica exists in, the novel does not dump exposition on us. In fact, we are given choice details about humanity’s place in the universe and the “jenjer” slave class as the story progresses. The way the information is parceled out is quite fun with a few interesting reveals.
Despite being quite short, the novella packs in some interesting takes on outer world expansionism and the class effects of such. The reclamation of old abandoned earth by the wealthy was an intriguing detail.
Yet, while I appreciated the non-heavy-handed, or at least roundabout, rumination on slavery, the jenjer situation required more explanation. How did a modern government allow for this? We’re given no indication how such treatment of human beings could pass legislation, especially given humanity’s history with slavery. Then again, certain rights you would think should be set in stone today are still contested in parts of the first world, let alone the rest of it. The slavery aspect would have been more poignant had we been given a history of how the jenjer’s rights were taken away or never created.
It was a beautifully written short novel. Monica was an interesting, rather sympathetic character despite her place of privilege. I enjoyed the way the novella interwove the themes and stories from the present to the past. It was well-executed and enthralling.
Please watch my review on BookTube for a deeper dive into the novel.