The Field Trip, a Novel by Greg Elsasser

The Field TripBy Tab Olsen

I think The Field Trip is a great title for a novel that will interest homeschoolers – it certainly caught my eye because I love going on field trips! Although homeschooling doesn’t play a major role in this book, it is mentioned that the main protagonist Chasen Derrick (son of a famous actress) was homeschooled as a child:

“My mother dragged my father and me from movie set to movie set, location to location, so often it made regular schooling impossible…. I think I was around eleven when he quit his job as a phone company technician to become the world’s first stay-at-a-hotel dad…. Those were some of the best years of my life. Besides film and theatre crews, my dad was my one consistent friend, doing all the things a dad does for a kid. He gave me an education I could never have gotten in a public school” (p. 206).

Now an anti-conspiratorialist author and lecturer, Chasen has landed a lucrative but somewhat questionable teaching post at the exclusive Dysart Academy, a private school in Southern California. When the dean of students asks Mr. Derrick to lead a field trip to England, he reluctantly agrees, and the first few days of the tour go smoothly.

That is, until the mass abduction. The fire. The shootings. And the medieval torture.

Soon the FBI, Scotland Yard, and MI5 – not to mention a 500-year-old secret group known as the Apollo Society – are all searching the country for Mr. Derrick who is on the run with the only student he’s managed to hold on to – who just happens to be the most obnoxious and challenging kid in the class.

The Field Trip book is a lot like The Commuter movie, in which Liam Neeson stars as a man who becomes entangled in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute home. He has to work against the clock to stop a deadly attack to save the lives of his fellow train passengers. Similarly, Chasen must find and rescue all the kids on the bus while not getting caught himself.

Another parallel is that the main character in The Field Trip reminds me of Monk. In that TV show, Adrian Monk is a brilliant detective whose obsessive compulsive disorder often gets in the way. Like Monk, Chasen Derrick has a debilitating case of OCD and a panic disorder that threatens to flare up at the most inopportune times.

So… resembling a mashup of Monk and The Commuter, propelled by plot twists and fast-paced suspense, The Field Trip takes readers on a mysterious, dangerous, and yet often humorous adventure, exploring popular tourist destinations as well as unfamiliar places in search of the truth in a world where things aren’t always as they seem.

I found this book to be a bit hard to follow at times; but still, the story is so intriguing and entertaining that I plan to read it again. Like any good conflict, the protagonist is isolated and forced out of his comfort zone while at the same time suffering a secret inner turmoil. Along the way, Chasen is challenged to confront his beliefs about conspiracy theories… as well as his skewed understanding of guilt and forgiveness.

Even though The Field Trip is a Christian novel, the religious elements are so cleverly woven into the plot that the book is suitable for all readers. In fact, Mr. Derrick is surrounded by skeptics, unbelievers and false converts just like we are in real life. Nevertheless, the story delves into the deeper subject of biblical eschatology, the philosophy of end times. The author also adds a clear gospel message in his endnote.

Like an exciting movie, The Field Trip includes plenty of action, suspense, and drama in grand locations. The premise of the story is realistic even though it’s a work of fiction; the secret conspiracy plot was quite elaborate but believable. As I was reading the book, it actually seemed like a movie was playing in my mind. I seriously think that a Christian filmmaker should pick up this story and make a full-length motion picture out of it… it really is that good! The author is also a screenwriter, so it could easily be done. HINT: Mr. Elasser, if you’re reading this, you should shop your script around!

The author, Greg Elsasser, has been a high school and junior high English teacher in Los Angeles County for over 25 years. Each spring he takes his students on a real-life field trip to Europe. Elsasser is a published playwright of six plays and creator/writer of the award-winning television series, The Adventures of Roman and Jorge. As an actor, he has appeared in the Living Waters film Audacity and several episodes of The Way of the Master TV show. He and his wife, Kristie, have three boys and live in Southern California. Read an interview with the author here. Buy his book at Amazon.

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