Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Short Story Review: Field Trip, by Jody Wallace

Field Trip, by Jody Wallace, is an entertaining story with all the cute annoyances of a group of children on a museum field trip.

I’ll admit it. I was drawn to this story by the cover. Though not exactly the same, the font reminds me of Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Yes, I’m one of those geeks.) I received a copy of the story through an offer on Jody Wallace's blog, Writer and Cat.

Miss James is a third grade teacher escorting her students to the Space Station Freedom Museum and Amusement Park. The trip is not going well. Handsome but inept, the Zhie tour guide, Sergeant Chamblin, “…was obviously not used to holding the attention of twenty Human and Zhie third graders from the Integrated Public School System of Earth on their annual field trip.” The kids are restless, and restless children, whether human or alien, are a recipe for disaster. Miss James uses all of her 12 years of teaching experience to maintain order as she mentally composes an email satisfaction survey complaining of Chamblin’s inept performance. A malfunction in the museum’s shabby shuttle simulator does not help matters.

The tour of the now defunct space station includes a backward look at antiquated technology—actually advanced by today’s standards—that gradually builds a picture of Zhie/Human first contact. The children’s antics are believable. “To make matters worse, [Chamblin] sometimes patted the kids on the shoulder, head or back when he didn’t know the answers to their questions.” This patronizing behavior, among other idiosyncrasies, registers with Miss James. She sometimes tries to give the guide pointers while continuing to compose her growing list of complaints.

Then their field trip takes an unusual turn. I recommend that you grab a copy to find out what happens. The world building is effortless and believable. The story is well told and edited, and the writing is excellent.

Field Trip perfectly illustrates why I prefer books over short stories. I want more, including development of some of the fascinating hints we get about Miss James and Sergeant Chamblin. Unfortunately, Jody Wallace does not have any other published works in this genre, let alone this universe. Jody, please write more!

Highly recommended.

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