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The Undefeated

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  173 ratings  ·  52 reviews
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
Paperback, 112 pages
Published May 14th 2019 by
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Lisa Wolf
What a cool story!

This brief sci-fi tale follows writer Monica Greatorex, a worlds-famous journalist who's spent her life on the front-lines of inter-planetary battles for conquest, as the Commonwealth expanded and expanded to take over and absorb the planets on the periphery.

Now in her 60s, Monica heads back to her home planet of Sienna, going against the tide of desperate humans fleeing the outer planets for the supposed safety of the Commonwealth core. Monica is accompanied by her companion
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Monica Greatorex is a war correspondent, famous for her writing of the Commonwealth's last great expansion as it absorbed countless worlds. Now, the Commonwealth itself is under threat as the bio-engineered slave class that they created turns on it. Monica travels to her homeworld, destined to be one of the first to fall to the oncoming jenjer, with her own jenjer servant in tow.

It's an interesting perspective to chronicle the fall of an empire by following the person who chronicled its rise.
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A melancholic tone suffuses this tale of the life of a privileged woman of the Commonwealth. Monica Greatorex has been able, thanks to her great wealth, to live and do as she likes. She spends many years writing about the rise and actions of the Commonwealth, gaining fame and acclaim for her work. After many years, she finally returns to her former home on an outer planet of the Commonwealth, , Sienna, to await an army coming to take on the Commonwealth.
What is gradually revealed is this army
Jun 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, stars-3-5

A famous, retired, and wealthy journalist decides to return to her childhood home planet. Nothing too weird about this, if it weren’t for the fact that society around her is under threat of war and on a major exodus. At first, the narrative just follows Monica’s trip but once she reaches her old town, a ghost town, we are given a look at events that shook her as a child, events that are tightly connected to the present and the jenjer, generically engineered people used as indentured
Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight

This is going to be a short review, since it is a short book. I mean goodness, I don't want to tell you everything, right? Right. So I am basically going to break it into two parts: The World, and The Characters. Because one was mostly a hit and one was rather a miss, and that sums up my feelings on this one. Let's do it!

The World:

The world was really interesting, and I was eager to
Christine Sandquist (eriophora)
This review and others can be read on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks.


The Undefeated is a novel that fails to live up to an interesting premise. I was excited to read about a “warrior of words” and “no holds barred” journalist – the blurb mentions front-line war zones, courageous exposés on corruption, scandal, et cetera. I came in expecting a thrilling space opera with excitement and action.

Clare Rhoden
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful, accomplished book. More detail after my other reviewing commitments end. read it. You won't be disappointed!
Thomas Wagner
Nov 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Back in the Roman Empire, a bill before the Senate to require slaves to wear distinctive clothing was voted down, under the practical reasoning that “it would be a mistake to show the wretches how numerous they truly are.” Massive empires, especially those where the systemic violation of human rights is baked right into the cake, usually fall because they’re a lot more fragile than they let on. They expand too far too fast, so that they can no longer defend their borders effectively. Or, there’s ...more
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Undefeated is the story of Monica Greatorex, a famed journalist in a galaxy on the brink. As humanity flees to the Commonwealth and the Core, Monica goes against the tide. She finds herself on Sienna, the planet of her youth. In her hometown Monica delves deep into the past, dredging up memories and unearthing events she failed to understand as a child. They're coming, and Monica is prepared to bear witness.

This novella was short and sweet. The writing is brilliant, perfectly clipped and
Mike Finn
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Undefeated" is a beautifully crafted novella about unconscious privilege, ubiquitous slavery and their consequence, seen through the eyes of a memorable, if not always reliable, narrator.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the way Una McCormack slowly built up my understanding of the central character, Monica Greatorex, both by showing me how she sees her current and past self and by letting me see the things about her to which she is mostly blind.

Monica, in her sixties, is returning
I saw this book in a display at the library. I had not heard anything about this story or the author in general, but the synopsis seemed interesting. I expected a space opera - one more focused on journalism than space battles, but still with plenty of action.

The Undefeated is not a space opera. I would describe it as a memoir in third person. It is entirely about Monica Greatorex reflecting on her life. The story covers her return to her hometown after 50 years abroad. The whole world is
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
A subtle and mesmerizing story that tells more in what it doesn't say than it what it says outright. My full review at the New York Journal of Books:
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Una McCormack's science fiction novella was a thought-provoking surprise. Monica Greatorex, a famous journalist, is contemplating the six decades of her life, the condition of the world she grew up in, the changes that have taken place, the politics of the known worlds...and their repercussions.

She's traveled widely, reporting on wars, migration, and suffering, and now she is returning to the almost abandoned world that sheltered and cosseted her until she was twelve.

As millions of refugees are
Thank you to NetGalley for this 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
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a short but thoughtful and compelling study of slavery, with some musings about colonialisme too, told through the reminiscences of a 60 years old former war correspondant who returns to her near abandoned birth planet. Beautifully written, engaging and easy to read.
It was my first book by Una McCormack, but definitely not my last.
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
How do writers manage to get so much plot and characterization in so little space? Ugh, I need to learn how to do that...
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really impressed by this tale of an older protagonist returning home and making sense of a pivotal childhood moment
Liz (Quirky Cat)
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads
I received a copy of The Undefeated through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Undefeated by Una McCormack is an interesting study on human nature, and the way we process the world around us. This was my first foray into Una McCormack’s writing, but I have to say that I’m impressed with her writing style.
The Undefeated is a scientific novella, but one that explores so much more than the science at hand. It’s beautifully written, and manages to tell a lot in such a short
Realms & Robots
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Undefeated is smart, insightful storytelling, following a writer in her later years as she returns to her childhood home on a planet soon to be invaded. What starts as a bit of fond reminiscence becomes a story of oppression, detailing the everyday acceptance of slavery in the shared universal culture. We see how prejudices become deep-seated, how young children grow up believing in other people as property because that’s how it has always been. The cycle continues through generations until ...more
Steven Poore
For such a slender book, there's a heck of a lot crammed into it. Right from the cover, which riffs so heavily on Friedrich's early 19th century painting The Wanderer Above The Sea Of Fog, and McCormack's deliberate choice to seat the story in a sort of 19th century narrative, we're told that this history of the life of Monica Greatorex is a vision of an uncertain future. And the Undefeated is definitely the Life of Monica, the narrative revolving around a few carefully selected events to make ...more
John (JP)
Through a series of flashbacks, we see the story of a war correspondent. Her privileged life with her servant a genetically engineered human slave. This is the beginning of the end for the Commonwealth, yet few understand it. People are fleeing the frontier from an as-yet-unnamed foe. Coming to her home planet near the border, brings back memories of her past. Those memories are now seen through the lens of an adult; The writer comes face to face with the impending danger and her part in it.

Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
More novella than novel, but McCormack packs a lot into her few pages of sci-fi. Some parts are elegantly revealed: giving you enough time to wonder, to guess, before she explains almost in passing what is going on in this intriguing world. Nothing quite happens as I expected, which was refreshing.

The construction of the story, however, means that a lot of the plot comes through recollection. There isn’t really enough room for the nuance or risk of faulty memory, or mis-interpretation. The main
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
Boring and literary social commentary thinly disguised as science fiction. But it's not. Science fiction, I mean. It just has some spaceships and colony worlds, is all.

Plus, at least half was a long, long flashback, and I hate that. I really liked the beginning, too, but it just dragged on and on, and considering that it's very short, that's saying something. I wanted to give it one star, but it is too well written for that. It will probably win awards, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
Andy Coleman
Aug 03, 2019 rated it liked it

Hmm, basically a look at colonialism through the eyes of a woman reflecting on her life. But to make it "sci-fi", replace other countries with other worlds and indigenous peoples and slaves with a created class of people called the "jenjur". So what happens when the oppressed fight back? We don't actually get to know since that's when the story ends.

It's a quick read but doesn't actually bring anything to the sci-fi world, so if that's the part that caught your eye, keep
May 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: spec-fic
Well-written (and yet...) novella(?) that focuses mainly on the life of a female journalist and the moment when she awakened to man's inhumanity towards man (and humanoid slave class). Almost like a slice out of a longer story though, it doesn't really give you the story advertised. Don't get me wrong - what is there is good - but it's not really about much beyond an older woman's reflection on how the humanoid slave class play into her personal narrative.
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Tread lightly and do not step upon those whom you think are below your station. You never know when you're going to piss off a genetically superior race and set off your eventual downfall.
A lovely novella by Una McCormack. Really enjoyed the journey Monica took back to her childhood home and the look back at her and her home towns earlier life. Would really have loved to read more about the Jenjer but you get just enough to keep you mesmerized.
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
A nice character-driven short novel from an author who I’ve read a bit of in the past. I really like her writing style and this story is well laid out. The subject matter of the story is thought-provoking and interesting, exploring how future indentured “slaves” might seek retribution for humanity’s treatment of them. Quite a plausible idea and one that is well explored here. A quick read that was enjoyable to relax with.
Aliki Ekaterini  Chapple
This is atmospheric and sad, weighted with a guilt I don’t want to go into for fear of spoiling. The metaphor and the politics are a bit obvious, perhaps, but she’s such a good writer that she carries it off, and this is what science fiction does, after all, comment on the present through the imagined future.
Aug 31, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rick Brose
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the novella seems to set up for a larger story, the arc of the main character and the intriguing world are more than enough to make this read worthwhile. I am a huge fan of novellas. They are well paced, diverse, and almost always worthy of your time. The Undefeated further cements my opinion of the publisher and the authors they choose to work with.
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Una McCormack is a British writer and the author of several Star Trek novels and stories.

She has also written a number of Doctor Who novels and short stories.
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