cover image The Undefeated

The Undefeated

Una McCormack., $11.99 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-7653-9925-0

In this introspective novella set in the far future, an aged journalist returns to the planet of her birth to reflect upon her life, especially the circumstances that led to her father’s death, her society’s decline, and her own transition out of childhood innocence. Humanity’s genetically enhanced indentured servants, the jenjer, have broken free of their bonds and are inexorably marching through the planets of the Commonwealth, intent on revenge. Meanwhile, Monica Greatorex moves against the tide of refugees to visit Sienna, a formerly prominent but now faded world, where her memories of an incident involving a rogue jenjer resurface, granting her insight into the events to come. McCormack (Molten Heart) builds a melancholy, literary tale, raising echoes of the Gilded Age as seen through a nostalgic lens, and enhances the story with a flowery narrative voice: “Money begot money, and this miraculous alchemy had eased Monica’s passage through life....” This languid, distant tone contributes to an understated, passive feel and the realization that very little of consequence actually occurs. The looming threat of the jenjer is never fully explained or explored in detail save in Monica’s early experiences, leaving them a nebulous offstage menace. The sense of inaction is offset by the strong writing and premise, but this feels like the seed of something much greater. (May)