Star Wars | The High Republic: The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray – A Book Review

This is the third novel I’ve read in The High Republic Star Wars series. The High Republic is set about 200 years before Star Wars: A New Hope. It may be important to note that these novels are just a small facet of the overall The High Republic campaign. There are also comic books, YA novels, children’s books, and soon-to-be-released streaming shows and video games. I only call that fact out because this book marked the first time I honestly felt like I wasn’t getting the whole story. Perhaps this is how casual MCU moviegoers feel as they sporadically bounce in and out?

I’d also like to make it very clear that I generally enjoy Claudia Gray’s writing. Star Wars: Lost Stars proved my first encounter with her and it is one of my all-time favorite Star Wars stories. Keep in mind that she was the sole author on that endeavor and that it only tangentially connected to A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return Of the Jedi. Otherwise it focused on two original characters.

This is important because The High Republic is a story by committee. There are a lot of different authors helping to deliver the installments and, in fact, each of the three The High Republic novels have been written by different people. For me, this results in a total lack of voice. Gray has a writing voice, I know this to be true, but it was muffled in The Fallen Star.

Furthermore, I simply can’t connect to The High Republic characters. I’m having trouble envisioning them, hearing them in my head, and separating them out as individuals. Is this because there are just so many of them, especially in regards to the Jedi?

Plus, to be blunt, this particular book’s entire plot is revealed in the title. The Jedi space station falls. The majority of the book leads up to that point, and then the last quarter of it deals with the ramifications of it falling. Getting to that last quarter was a long, long slog and I actually resorted to skimming.

However, I will give The Fallen Star respect in this regard: things definitely happen in that last quarter of the story. Characters are killed off, significant changes in other characters occur, and the Jedi are certainly challenged.

Which leads me to my final note: the Jedi simply don’t look good in this series. The same antagonist has outsmarted them three books in a row now. He’s inflicted major damage over the course of saga thus far. They thought they beat him the first two books, but they obviously did not. The High Republic Jedi come off as naïve, ill-prepared, and unimaginative. If I remember correctly, this was a complaint about the prequel Jedi as well.

I’m afraid I may be out on this series. After three books, the Jedi have failed to capture my attention, the stories seem strangely repetitive, each book lacks a unique voice, and the stakes seem both monumental and inconsequential at the same time. I love the concept and the major effort put into this gigantic enterprise, but it’s simply no longer for me.

Star Wars – The High Republic: The Rising Storm – A Book Review

In this second novel of the The High Republic series, author Cavan Scott continues the story initiated in The Light Of the Jedi. Set roughly 200 years before The Phantom Menace, Marchion Ro and his Nihil minions still plot against the Republic. They will do anything to disrupt peace, including a brutal attack against civilians at the Republic Fair, a moment meant to bring the galaxy together.

The first half of The Rising Storm focusses on setting up the Republic Fair and further establishing characters such as the Jedis Stellan Gos, Elzar Mann, and Bell Zettifar. It also allows us to better know Chancellor Lina Soh, reporter Rhil Dairo, and a new character named Ty Yorrick, whom we are led to believe received Jedi training in her youth before going renegade.

To be honest, the first half of the book goes into such detail regarding the Republic Fair and those characters involved that it began to get just a touch boring.

… And then the Nihil attacked.

The second half of this book is nonstop, full-on action. Scott proves masterful at maintaining plot and story amidst constant unfolding physicality. Writing action is no easy feat, but he pulls it off very well. The first half took me a while to get through; I couldn’t put it down during the second half.

There are also some surprising character beats throughout the novel. Characters change. Characters suffer. Characters die.

Which leads to my only general complaint about The High Republic. As potent as some of the characterization is, I cannot connect to most because I simply can’t picture them in my mind. I’ve been a Star Wars fan my entire life, but that doesn’t mean I have memorized every species ever mentioned. I think including a sketch of each character included in the book would be very helpful and assist me with picturing them better in my mind, and therefore helping me bond with them. Yes, I know there are many websites out there with official art, fan art, etc. I’m afraid I’m not willing to put quite that much effort into it. A character guide within the book would be most helpful to those of us unwilling to invest time on the Internet.

In the end, I’m enjoying The High Republic series and The Rising Storm is an exciting installment to the overall tale. I’m not sure where exactly all of this is going or how long it’s supposed to last, but I’m definitely along for the ride.

Star Wars: Light of the Jedi (The High Republic) – A Book Review

I must admit that I wasn’t that excited to hear about “The High Republic” campaign. This new Star Wars onslaught is set 200 years before the prequels and explores the Star Wars galaxy at a time when the Jedi were at their most powerful and the Republic was at its most efficient. I call it an onslaught because “The High Republic” includes novels, young adult novels, children’s books, comic books, talk shows, video games, and presumably a Disney+ event.

Personally, I enjoy moving forwards in terms of story, not backwards. I thought it was a mistake to do a “pre-prequel” storyline across so many mediums.

Frankly, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I checked Star Wars: Light Of the Jedi out from my local library. Within the first twenty-five pages, I returned it and then bought a copy of my own. That’s how much it instantly captured my interest. Before I got anywhere close to finishing it, I wanted it on my bookshelves.

The premise involves a catastrophe regarding hyperspace that scientifically (in Star Wars’ reality) shouldn’t have happened. The book first executes the disaster, then explores the aftermath of the disaster, and then sets the stage for the ramifications of the disaster.

Furthermore, it introduces a whole new batch of Jedi and dives deeply into both the characters and their connection to the Force. The author, Charles Soule, presents a new philosophical take on the Force that I found both groundbreaking and riveting. I won’t spoil it too much, but he details how each Jedi interprets and uses the force differently, both in everyday life and in battle. These nuances were such thoughtful, fresh perspectives on the Force–it truly fascinated me.

I also consider the format of the book a real victory. It begins as a countdown of sorts and then reverses that format and introduces a build-up. It also alternates chapters between several different characters as they deal with the disaster and then the fallout of the disaster. Each chapter was relatively short, which made a fast paced plot move even more quickly.

The characterization proved engrossing, the storyline captured my interest, the structure and format of the book made reading it a pleasure, and the hints at things to come piqued my curiosity, which guaranteed my return for book two.

Despite my initial doubts, The Light Of the Jedi should be considered an unmitigated success. I highly recommend it to any and all Star Wars fans.

The Mandalorian – A Few Thoughts

This is probably my favorite show of all time, so there is no excuse for just now writing about it months after it debuted.

By the way, yes, I’m a Star Wars fanatic. And, no, I’m not capable of being objective when it comes to Star Wars.

However, even with that being said, this is still a phenomenal show for the following reasons.

First of all–it’s got heart. You can tell that the creators of this show wanted it to be great. It looks great. The acting is great. The costumes are great. The story is great. The action is great. They are trying very, very hard to make a great experience for the viewer, and it shows in every way.

Secondly–they nailed the characters. The Mandalorian himself is incredible. We virtually never see his face, yet we care about him. We care about his beliefs, his motives, and his well-being. Obviously, a young character appears that depends on The Mandalorian for safety, and this is partially why we care so much about The Mandalorian himself. A bond forms between this other character and The Mandalorian, almost like that of a father and child, which causes us to see The Mandalorian in a completely different light. This child, by the way, is the element that will capture the hearts of even those who don’t count themselves among the Star Wars faithful. I know this because I saw it happen on several different occasions with people who couldn’t care less about Star Wars or science fiction in general.

Thirdly–this feels like a Star Wars story. Sure, you can absolutely watch it without knowing anything. It stands on its own as a self-contained series. However, if you know Star Wars, it feels like it belongs to the original trilogy from the Seventies and Eighties–it’s got that kind of magic.

Finally–if you are among the enlightened and enjoy Star Wars in all its forms, you will revel in the tiny references, the brief cameos, and the clever in-jokes.

Whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not, this series appeals to everyone. As we’re all stuck at home due to the outbreak, I would put this at the top of your “must-watch” list.


The Ride Of a Lifetime by Robert Iger – A Book Review


No one is more surprised that I’ve become a Disney acolyte than, well, me. The serious devotion began after visiting Walt Disney World. Since then, I’ve paid close attention to Disney’s dealings–both past and present. The acquisition of Pixar, securing Marvel, getting hold of the Star Wars intellectual properties, taking Fox, introducing Disney+ … these are impressive feats!

And the man leading the way in all of these endeavors? Robert Iger.

The Ride Of a Lifetime is a brief, simple read, but it is filled with captivating information. Iger spends a little bit of time discussing his rise to prominence from rather humble beginnings, his careful navigation of the Disney hierarchy, as well as his core tenets regarding business.

However, for this reader, the primary joy of the book derived from learning about how Iger and Disney managed all of their most recent, and momentous, accomplishments. Iger is careful to talk about each acquisition respectfully and he is incredibly thoughtful in regards to Steve Jobs and George Lucas in particular, yet he also surprised me by some of his rather candid remarks pertaining to certain Disney executives as well as some of the competition.

If you are interested in Disney, business, or the entertainment industry, I highly recommend The Ride Of a Lifetime. It is well-written, informative, and–best of all–fun to read.

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker – A Movie Review


I loved The Rise of Skywalker because it pandered to my every desire.

I realize that this is something of a backhanded compliment, yet I don’t care. Did it have problems? Absolutely. Did those problems impede my enjoyment of the film? Not at all.

The Rise of Skywalker left me emotionally fulfilled–perhaps even giddy. It did its best to adjust to The Last Jedi, a film that, while well made, did not settle well with me. It wrapped up multiple story lines while leaving ample opportunity for future stories. We were also afforded the opportunity to say goodbye to everyone just the way we hoped we would.

I’d be lying if I said The Rise of Skywalker broke any kind of new ground. Even the surprises, once contemplated, proved to be obvious choices.

However, this did not bother me at all. I’ve been watching Star Wars movies since childhood. I’ve been on this ride for forty years. In regards to the main story line, the Skywalker saga, there are certain expectations that simply can’t be altered. Call this extreme fan-service, call it an adherence to the archetypal blueprint upon which Star Wars is built, call it whatever you want. When destiny and hope are firmly entrenched in a film series’ themes, there aren’t that many choices pertaining to the conclusion.

Without getting into spoilers, I found the action of The Rise of Skywalker impeccable, the dialogue snappy, the emotional resonance potent, and the characters engaging. The film moved so fast that it nearly achieved hyperspace, which resulted in an incredibly fun experience. There were a few “I can’t believe that happened!” moments, and there were several greatly appreciated cameos. Furthermore, Poe, Finn, and Rey were actually together for most of this film. Their on-screen chemistry guaranteed a victory.

Unfortunately, there were some issues. Quite honestly, The Rise of Skywalker felt more like a series of vignettes than a coherent, interconnected plot. Truthfully, unlike the Lucas films, Chapters VII, VIII, and IX felt quite disjointed from one another. I’m not convinced the new guard had a three-film plan in place before unveiling The Force Awakens. The movie moved so quickly, in fact, that the audience didn’t have time to process in real time the enormous plot holes arising.

The big reveal regarding Rey, while utterly satisfying, literally came out of nowhere and, frankly, made no sense at all. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but I’d be lying if I said there were clues throughout the previous films to lead us to that exact revelation. In the end, Rey’s lineage left me with more questions than answers.

Consequently, if you’ve seen the posters or trailers, you know that Emperor Palpatine (or Darth Sidious, if you prefer) plays a role in The Rise of Skywalker. His entire presence, while emotionally gratifying, also made very little sense when viewed against the entire new trilogy. I just cannot believe he amassed the army he did in total secrecy for thirty years. It served this final movie very well, but it also proved a little too convenient.

The fate of Kylo Ren also ended up being just a little too convenient. Again, I adored what they did with him, but his character arc ended up being a little too neat–a little too tidy. This is a man responsible for millions of deaths, after all.

Do not go to The Rise of Skywalker if you’re looking for a movie that breaks molds, bucks the system, spits in the face of fans, or any other appropriate cliche. But, if you want a satisfying ending to a forty-year-old story that will get you a little misty-eyed, entice you to whelp in delight, and perhaps even prompt an applause or two, this is the film for you.


Star Wars: Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray – A Book Review

Star Wars: Master & Apprentice is a new book written by Claudia Gray.  It features Qui-Gon Jinn and his relatively recently appointed Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi.  As you’ve probably guessed, it takes place before Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

I looked forward to reading this book for two reasons.  The first is that Qui-Gon Jinn is a fairly enigmatic figure in the Star Wars mythology.  I haven’t seen much of him in other books, graphic novels, cartoons, or movies.  I felt excited not only to learn more about him as a person, but to also examine his dynamic with Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The second reason is that I enjoy Cladia Gray’s Star Wars voice.  Her novel, Star Wars: Lost Stars, remains one of my all-time favorite Star Wars stories due not only to its unique characters but also because it connects seamlessly to major Star Wars events.  True, I didn’t find her two Princess Leia books as engaging, but I hoped Master & Apprentice would recapture the magic of Lost Stars.

Unfortunately, Master & Apprentice suffered the same fate as those other two Star Wars books featuring Princess Leia in that it gets far too bogged down in political complexities without any actual character growth or revelations occurring.

It started off on a good note.  Several references were made to Count Dooku which led us to believe he could make an appearance in this novel, especially because Dooku trained both Qui-Gon and a newly revealed Jedi named Rael Averross.  Rael is older than Qui-Gon, so it’s initially interesting to see that new side of Master Jinn.  There are also ample teases that Darth Maul could be working from the shadows.  This would make perfect sense as he’s later revealed to be the Phantom Menace.

Furthermore, early on in the book, Qui-Gon is invited to join the Jedi Council, which would mean he would have to relinquish his role as teacher to Obi-Wan.  Obi-Wan feels betrayed by this possibility, which further damages their already-strained relationship.  In this book, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon rarely see eye-to-eye on much of anything and are typically not on the same page.  I found this refreshing, though, to be honest, it is not especially innovative compared to other Master/Padawan duos that we’ve encountered.

So, as you can see, there is a great deal of rich character conflict available for exploration in Master & Apprentice.  Sadly, most of it falls by the wayside in favor of a political story pertaining to a child about to be named Queen and her connection to an intergalactic corporation hoping to gain control of a hyperspace corridor.

Frankly, I found the first two hundred pages of the novel a little uneventful.  Things started heating up for the last one hundred and thirty pages, but, in the end, nothing substantial happens to our favorite characters.  They are primed and ready for The Phantom Menace, but, other than improved communication skills, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are basically unchanged.

More often than not, this seems to be a theme in the Star Wars novels that I’ve read.  They delve far too much into political intrigue without any serious ramifications to the characters we care about.  Lost Stars proved special in that it created two brand new characters, made them important to us, mixed them in with major beats from the Star Wars movies, and then sent them through some serious character development.

Master & Apprentice had wonderful potential.  Acknowledging Dooku was really cool, but it went nowhere.  We really didn’t get that much of a better feel for Qui-Gon than we do in The Phantom Menace.  Obi-Wan is also virtually the same as he’s depicted in The Phantom Menace.  Rael seemed like an important addition, but even he remained unchanged by story’s end.  And those hints at Darth Maul?  Nothing came of them.  I hope that’s not a spoiler, but I don’t want you to be disappointed.

I really get the feeling that the authors of these books are being hamstrung by a corporate influence.  While they create complicated conflict, in the end, none of it really matters to the overall Star Wars story that we know and love.  Perhaps it’s just me, but if these books don’t somehow improve upon the characters or events that draw us to them, then what is the point of their existence?


Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: or NOOK:

Doctor Aphra: Remastered (Volume 3) – A Book Review

I still maintain that Doctor Aphra is one of the greatest additions to the Star Wars mythology in recent years, but this volume confirms my fear about the character–she cannot solely carry her own title.

This installment tries to spice things up a bit by making Doctor Aphra beholden to Triple-Zero, the murderous entity in the guise of a protocol droid.  Triple-Zero sends Aphra on a series of missions in which she must lead a group of mercenaries.  There are some interesting asides as Aphra develops a relationship with Magna Tolvan, the Imperial Officer.  Hera Syndulla also makes a substantial appearance, which was super cool to see.  But in the end, much of it felt forced to me.

The problem is that Doctor Aphra works best as a foil to, well, everyone else.  I love it when she pops into a scene, plays havoc with everyone and everything, and then leaves.  She has the luxury of being an agent of chaos.  She is naughty, hilarious, greedy, and lovable.  But in a title featuring her, she doesn’t have that advantage.  She has to carry every episode from month to month.  The writers seem obligated to reveal every little detail about her, and this is diluting the character.

In my opinion, Doctor Aphra has lost her “hook.”  She had it when she appeared in Darth Vader.  We knew just enough about her and what she was about and we (obviously) loved her.  Unfortunately, we loved her so much that they kept giving us more in the form of her own book.

I don’t know exactly how they can fix this issue, and I fully confess that this may be my issue alone.  Perhaps everyone else is loving the direction of the book and character.  I think I would like to see the book function as an ongoing gag on how Aphra swindles everyone she meets, but we never get the stories from her perspective.  Each arc would be narrated by her victims.  That would afford her the ability to maintain her mystique and “devil-may-care” persona.  It would take a great deal of creativity to constantly come up with stories where Aphra outsmarts everyone while revealing virtually nothing about herself, but I think that would maximize her potential.

Doctor Aphra does have a great deal of potential, by the way.  Clearly, she has connected with fandom.  I’m concerned that she’s being overexposed, though, and that we’re learning too much about her too quickly.  I adore this character and don’t want her to fade out of everyone’s interest.

Image result for doctor aphra remastered cover amazon

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

Be a Star At Hollywood Studios: Family 2018 Disney World Vacation (Part 4)

We started our Walt Disney World vacation at my favorite park — Hollywood Studios.  If you know me, it’s probably not hard to guess why I love this park so much.

Two words: Star. Wars.

Before we go there, though, I’d like to give you an overview of Hollywood Studios in terms of shows, rides, and restaurants.

Let’s start, shall we?


My wife and kids are not huge fans of rides, so we take in a lot of shows, which is totally fine by me because the shows are always amazing.  Allow me to briefly run through them.

For the First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration — I must admit that I wasn’t quite excited to see this one again after seeing it in the summer of 2017.  Boy, was I wrong.  The premise is that two Arendelle historians run through the story of Frozen with appearances by men and women dressed as Elsa, Kristoff, and Anna.  They also show scenes from the movie in the background on a huge screen.  The stage is made to appear as though you are inside Arendelle’s walls.  Make no mistake, however–the historians are the real stars of this show.  The historians are part story tellers, part singers, and part comedians.  They sing each and every major song while encouraging the audience to join along.  But they are also hilarious.  As I said, I wasn’t quite so excited to see this show again, but the historians were so funny that I actually enjoyed it more this second round.  A man fell asleep in the front row who also happened to have very shiny knees (yes, you read that right) and they started improvising the heck out of that situation.  They had the Kristoff actor laughing so hard that he had to turn his back to the audience in order to collect himself.  They absolutely had me rolling.  Of course, Elsa makes a grand entrance at the end and the kids will love it when fake snow begins to fall from the ceiling in the air-conditioned theater.  Even if you’re not especially into Frozen, the ad libs and improvisation will more than entertain you.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular — This was a first-time experience for us.  Though we loved it, it might have been a little too intense for my six-year-old.  As an avid Indiana Jones fan, I insisted that we take this one in.  While you sit in a large outdoor amphitheater, you watch a director and his stunt crew recreate epic scenes from the Raiders Of the Lost Ark film–yes, they are epic.  It’s not just recreating the scenes, though, it’s almost like watching a story of the director actually filming it.  There are some incredible falls from atop buildings, lots of jumps and flips, and even some extremely large explosions.  These explosions caught us off guard.  They were fireball big, loud, and we could very easily feel the heat from them from where we sat.  I loved it, but it frightened my youngest to the point of tears.  If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t take her to it.  It’s incredible, but far more intense than I expected.

Beauty and the Beast: Live On Stage — Again, you sit in an outdoor amphitheater for this one.  This show is about 30 minutes and features live actors creating an abbreviated version of the movie.  The character costumes are really impressive, but a little on the cartoonish side.  The singing is wonderful and the dancing is really something to behold.  There is always a lot to take in on stage, so I don’t see the young or old getting bored during this one.  I have no idea how the dancers in the character costumes could stand the heat, but they gave no signs of fatigue.

Voyage Of the Little Mermaid — Parents, this is another air-conditioned theater, so put it on your list!  This short, 15 minute show features puppets standing in for the fish and a live actress as Ariel.  Some of the show takes place in the pitch black with the puppets lit up by black lights as they sing and dance–it’s very cool.  The actress then appears as Ariel as she runs through many of her songs while clips of the movie play in the background.  The stage and theater are designed to give you the sense of an underwater cave.  An enormous Ursula appears at the end.  She’s a neon puppet and literally takes up half of the stage–very impressive.  It’s especially cool when water lightly drizzles from the ceiling during a fabricated lightning storm.

Disney Junior: Live On Stage! — My nine-year-old was not quite as excited to see this again after seeing it last year, but my six-year-old still loved it.  If your child loves Disney Junior, this is the show for them.  You enter a giant (air-conditioned) room with the stage set up to look like the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  An actor or actress (we’ve had each) leads the crowd in song and dance as puppet versions of Jake the Pirate, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, and Minnie appear.  You sit on the floor and the crowd is mainly comprised of small children, so be ready to dial your patience up to full-throttle.  I had a baby next to me intent on feeling my knee as I sat cross-legged.  Didn’t bother me, but you may encounter something similar.  Again, items fall from the ceiling at various points during the show, which the kids love.

Muppet Vision 3-D — My kids aren’t terribly familiar with the muppets, but that didn’t seem to bother them one bit.  In fact, they loved this little show so much we saw it two or three times!  Kermit is desperately trying to put a show together when Beaker unleashes Waldo, a 3-D character who takes everything up a notch.  This show has excellent 3-D and is very funny to boot.  You even have the two old guys sitting up in the balcony!  I recommend this show no matter what, but if you’re looking to sit down in the air-conditioning, this is a fantastic option.

Fantasmic — A nighttime show, Fantasmic makes use of fireworks, music, lasers, actors, automated creatures, and fire.  It’s an extraordinary thing to behold, but if I’m being honest it was far more intense than we anticipated.  The audience sat in an outdoor amphitheater with a moat between us and a mountain.  Mickey Mouse appears at the top of the mountain and that’s when the show starts.  At one point, a giant dragon appears which frightened my youngest.  It was absolutely huge.  At another point, they literally lit the moat on fire.  It was so hot that we could feel it from where we sat.  My oldest did not care for that aspect.  The fireworks, while amazing, are right on top of you and pretty tumultuous.  My wife and I were quite impressed by the whole thing, but neither of our kids particularly enjoyed it.  They honestly found it a little scary.

Star Wars: Path Of the Jedi — This short film creatively summarizes everything that takes place leading up to The Last Jedi.  It even includes a few scenes from The Last Jedi that really sets up Kylo Ren and Rey’s evolving dynamic.  My nine-year-old and I are very big Star Wars fans, and we loved this refresher.  We thought they were very clever how they weaved in and out of the seven films.  It doesn’t move chronologically, yet it somehow still covers all of the most important bases.  I’m not sure how much the casual person would enjoy this, but Star Wars fans will really get a kick out of it.

Star Wars Launch Bay Characters — By far my favorite place in the park, the Launch Bay houses several props and models from the Star Wars movies.  You’ll see replica lightsaber handles, helmets, blasters, models of vehicles, and even some full-sized vehicles!  Best of all, you’ll have the chance to meet BB-8, a very fun Chewbacca, and an unsettling Kylo Ren.  BB-8 is just a model on a platform, but still cute as can be and full of sounds.  Chewbacca is an actor in costume, and he loves to play around with people.  Kylo Ren is another actor in costume reciting lines from the movie.  He will get right in your face and try to intimidate you, so be ready!


As I said earlier, my family is not big on rides, so this section will be much, much shorter!

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue — Last year I had to ride this one by myself, but this year I managed to get my wife and kids on-board with me!  Though this ride doesn’t actually go anywhere, you feel like you’ve traversed the galaxy by the time it’s over.  The premise is that you’ve loaded onto a freighter in order to travel to your destination.  A life-size automated version of C3PO is piloting your ship when it’s discovered that a rebel spy sits among you.  The First Order or Empire (depending) come after your ship, and that’s when it blazes across the galaxy trying to escape.  A giant screen looms before you–a view out the cockpit–and with your 3D glasses you’ll feel like you’re zooming through several popular planets from the film.  Again, you don’t actually go anywhere, but the “freighter” pitches up, down, and side to side in conjunction with the screen to give the illusion that you are actually zipping through space.  Apparently there are many different adventures, so you can keep riding it and experience something new every time!

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror — Needless to say, I rode this one by myself.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this, but I’m so glad I did it!  With this ride, you load onto an elevator car.  It has about four rows in it for people to sit down.  You then begin moving up, and out, then up, then out.  As it’s moving you along, you’ll have to deal with all kinds of trippy optical illusions.  Finally … the car shoots straight up into the air, then plummets, then shoots up again, then plummets again.  This went on for several moments.  I’m not sure how high we went, but at the peak of our climb I could easily see the whole park.  Be prepared, though the fall did not feel out of control, it was so hard and fast that my arms were lifting over my head on their own volition.  It was a thrilling ride that left me breathless!


Hollywood & Vine — This was a really fun experience because, along with the buffet of everything you could ever want, you immediately got a picture with Donald Duck as you entered (see below).  Furthermore, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Daisy Duck were all wandering around as well.  All four stopped at our table and interacted with my daughters.  Goofy even attempted to floss with them–the dance, not the dental hygiene measure.  He was very confused at first.  They were a blast, and the food was very good.  This is a popular, busy place, so be sure to plan ahead and make your reservations.

50s Prime Time Cafe — Among my favorite restaurants at Walt Disney World!  Clearly one of my best meals, this restaurant is straight out of the 50s.  The wait staff refers to themselves as “Cousin” this or “Uncle” that, and they continuously remind you to behave, keep your elbows off the table, and chew with your mouth closed.  This is not the kind of place where they will berate you, though.  My daughters were on red-alert thinking that they were going to get in trouble.  It’s all done in good-nature.  Most of the food is diner style comfort food, so right up my alley!  Our waiter was particularly good, and he made the experience all the more pleasant.  Like with Hollywood & Vine, make your reservations ahead of time.  I heard them say the wait time was 90 minutes at one point!

Okay!  I hope that gives you an idea of Hollywood Studios.  Obviously, I loved it all.  We didn’t go into every shop, but I feel like we’ve covered most of it during the last two years.  As always, thanks for reading.  Magic Kingdom is up next!

daffy duck and family

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

Star Wars: From a Certain Point Of View – A Book Review

This collection of short stories will satisfy every Star Wars fan alive.  The premise is genius.  It takes small, seemingly unimportant moments from A New Hope and zeroes in on them.  It provides names and backstories, tragedies and victories, motivations and inclinations.  It satisfyingly adds to a universe already well developed.

One of these stories in particular proved among my favorites.  Do you remember the guy standing lookout in the crow’s nest of a pole?  You saw him as the X-Wings took off to intercept the Death Star?  His story is written by Will Wheaton, entitled “Laina,” and it is absolutely heartbreaking.  There is another called “Time of Death” which features Obi-Wan Kenobi’s final moments and thoughts as he faced certain death at the hands of his former apprentice.  Speaking of such, Claudia Gray wrote “Master and Apprentice” which explores Qui-Gon Jinn’s spirit visiting Obi-Wan on Tatooine.  Still another is called “There Is Another,” and it’s about Yoda living on Dagobah and wishing he could train one last Jedi–someone he believes has great potential.

Of course, as you can see, not all stories are directly related to a moment in A New Hope.  Such as with the Yoda story, some of the stories check in on characters technically not introduced in the original 1977 classic.  Boba Fett, for example, offers a first-person account during a bounty hunt.  We have a story starring Lando trying to swindle someone.  We have another with Doctor Aphra, a relatively new character, in the lead.  Yet another stars the Emperor himself.

However, these are all pretty big names in the Star Wars mythology.  Most of the short stories actually utilize characters that are essentially unknown.  Remember the red R2 unit that Luke and Uncle Owen almost bought?  He’s got a story.  Do you recall the Tusken Raiders who knocked out Luke?  Yep, they have a story, too.  That bartender who told Luke to get the droids out of his tavern?  You guessed it.  Even one of those little mouse droids in the Death Star has a story.

Are all forty of these short stories great?  Not in my opinion, no.  However, those that didn’t speak to me personally may very well be your favorite.  I will say this, though, the vast majority of them were exceptional.  The writers’ ability to take seemingly irrelevant characters and develop them into engaging, charismatic figures proved uncanny.

I highly recommend this book for any Star Wars fan.

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 (Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)