Marshall Jones
by J.W. Delorie
Westwood Books Publishing

"Actually brother it is wise to preserve the culture of one’s own past, just like your culture from Essara."

Conjure the image of simultaneously losing your child and the love of your life and being subsequently blamed for their deaths. Such is the excruciating fate of Marshall Rox as he awaits his fate, appearing before the Sky Marshall Thos as only a number: Prisoner 467373. That the deceased were Thos' daughter and granddaughter certainly doesn't help Rox's case. From the opening scene, Delorie reels the audience in with a captivating premise of an unyielding protagonist in a complete state of flux, living a nightmare and thirsty for vengeance. Staying true to traditional science fiction, Delorie captures Rox's journey to redemption with the lens of a world he has created that is bursting with frenetic energy and action. With the Galactic Union as a whole becoming the setting of the novel, audiences have the opportunity to suspend disbelief and immerse themselves in a futuristic, technologically advanced world that bears witness to Rox's mission to prove his innocence.

Within Delorie's work resides a glimpse into the future where mind extractions are the new truth serum to decide whether an individual is being truthful. Combining an engaging and action-packed Galactic Union with the constant internal dialogue of a less-than-enthused Marshall Rox, the author effectively creates a dialogue-oriented narrative that facilitates a plot that moves at breakneck speed. Specifically, the animated nature of Rox's character juxtaposed with the embodiment of stoicism in AI Marshall Seran creates a unique chemistry that allows Delorie to play one off the other as they partner up on their journey to Earth to prove Rox's innocence. One of their first conversations highlighting an element of the author's worldbuilding—zone folders—foreshadows the tenuous relationship the two develop that is more along the lines of a sibling rivalry than a "fight-to-the-death" matchup.

On their mission to Earth, Rox assumes the identity of Marshall Tim Jones of the Marshall Jones Detective Agency with Marshall Seran as his sister. In their quest to recapture the escaped fugitives, Seran stresses the absolute importance of not being caught as off-worlders on Earth. As the adventure unfolds, the plot unveils another futuristic concept, C-Flux manipulation, while introducing Squggs, the character anointed a thief who possesses specialized knowledge of this concept. Interestingly, Delorie does a commendable job of incorporating subtle references to the current state of society. For instance, in a discussion revolving around world politics with an earthling, John, Rox talks nonchalantly about how once he captures the fugitives, he will not hesitate to put them back in stasis, freezing them in their pods, because, he states, "we do not care for prisoners in the same way you do."

As the veil of secrecy and deceit lifts, much of the tension and animosity in the various relationships dissipates in the search for Akron, the primary perpetrator. Nevertheless, Delorie's characters are constantly in "go-mode," never losing the sense of urgency to keep moving. This urgency undeniably prevents the plot from losing steam and stagnating at any point. Overall, the fusion of entertaining characters and unique worldbuilding elements is thought-provoking. The story may ignite debates on the merits of enshrining the past—from its edifices to its culture—instead of constantly moving forward and embracing a futuristic society. After all, can a world so firmly entrenched in the past truly progress?

A 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

Return to USR Home