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It's kind of a summer tradition here in the States that -- before
you head out for the beach -- you stuff something trashy to read in your tote. Jacqueline Susann (AKA the author of
"Valley of the Dolls," which sold 30 million copies back in the
1960s) used to specialize in these sorts of books. Romans à clef that were
liberally laced with sex, drugs and violence.
The reason I'm bringing up Ms. Susann as part of my
intro to JHM's review of "Our Kingdom of Dust" (Bamboo Forest
Publishing, May 2012) is ... Well, I think what Leonard Kinsey was shooting for
with his first foray into fiction was a "Valley of the Disney Princesses."
A soap opera-like page turner which then used The Walt Disney World Resort as
the principal backdrop for Leonard's incredibly twisted tale.
Copyright Bamboo Forest Publishing. All rights reserved
"And did Kinsey succeed?," you ask. That kind of
depends of how you feel about Epcot.
To explain: If you're
one of those folks who used to froth at the mouth whenever you saw that wand which
used to tower over Spaceship Earth, I would imagine that you're going to find a
lot to like about "Our Kingdom of Dust." Because Leonard (who -- as
his bio proudly states -- " ... was born and raised in Clearwater, FL, and
was lucky enough to visit Walt Disney World over 100 times by age 18")
clearly isn't a fan of many of the changes which have been made to that theme park over
the past 20 years.
Want proof? Then check out this passage from that 192-page
paperback. Where "Our Kingdom of Dust" 's narrator -- self-made millionaire Blaine McKinnon
-- makes his first trip back to Epcot in more than a decade. Blaine enters that theme park through its International Gateway. And -- after being somewhat
disconcerted by the security bag check and biometric scanner he encounters at
the turnstiles -- McKinnon wonders ...
... What else had changed since my last visit?
I literally ran past the United Kingdom and Canada pavilions. So far everything
looked the same ... until I hit the rose-filled path that linked Future World
and World Showcase, which offered my first unfettered glimpse of the main icon
of EPCOT Center: Spaceship Earth. A massive triumph of architecture, it's an
eighteen-story geodesic sphere, the only one in existence. The scale of the
structure is massive and awe-inspiring ... under normal circumstances. Except
now, when I looked at it I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
There was a huge wand stuck onto the side of the globe.
Mickey's hand was holding the wand, and there were little
red stars everywhere. "Epcot" was written above it in an ugly,
decidedly non-futuristic font. It completely diminished the magnitude and
majesty of the structure, demeaning it and reducing it to a placeholder for a
prop, essentially saying "Mickey's hand is way bigger than this
insignificant building. Mickey is master of all."
Something was very wrong here.
That foreboding feeling I'd felt at the gate became
exponentially worse. I ran east to Horizons faster than I could remember
running since I was a kid. Just past the breezeway between the Stargate
Restaurant (now called Electric Umbrella - WTF did that mean?) and the
Centorium gift shop (now called Mouse Gear - which, while clever, had no
futuristic connotations whatsoever) was the first clear view of my favorite
Except it wasn't there.
Horizons was simply no longer there.
I knew EPCOT Center like the back of my hand. I could
navigate the park blindfolded. There was no doubt that this was where Horizons
should be. I continued walking towards it. I looked to the left: Wonders of
Life and Universe of Energy were there, as expected. I looked to the right.
What the **** was that? It looked vaguely like World of Motion, except there
were awnings all over it, and a car zoomed around a track that wrapped around
the previously elegant building.
Turning forward, it finally hit me. Horizons had been
demolished. And in its place was some monstrosity called Mission: SPACE.
The ride that my parents and I loved so much was gone.
For a moment, the pain of their death hit me all over again.
That pain I'd stashed away and hidden deep. My throat tightened and I choked
Bile isn't the only bodily fluid you'll encounter as you
read through "Our Kingdom of Dust." There's buckets of blood in this
book's prologue, which takes us to a grisly crime scene at Disney's BoardWalk.
There's tears a-plenty in this novel's first 15 pages as (SPOILERS AHEAD) Blaine
loses both his parents and a beloved pet under some pretty bizarre
circumstances. Which is what compels McKinnon to revisit the one place he ever
truly felt happy: Walt Disney World.
The only problem is ... Instead of his childhood pals Mickey,
Donald and Goofy, Blaine encounters a far more adult set of characters this
time around. These include Jay, an Orlando-area limo driver who's festooned
with Disney tattoos; Charles, a greeter at Disney's Beach Club Resort who
harbors some dark secrets as well as Lisa, a beautiful if somewhat troubled
young woman who portrays Snow White at the theme parks.
To reveal much more about how Blaine, Charles, Jay and Lisa
interact / get along would spoil a lot of "Our Kingdom of Dust" 's
decidedly adult surprises. But let's just say that half the fun of this roman à
clef is figuring out which real-life cast members and/or what high profile members of the Disneyana
fan community inspired which characters in Kinsey's book.
Copyright Bamboo Forest PublishingAll rights reserved
And given that Leonard's the guy who wrote "The Dark Side of Disney: Utterly Unauthorized Tips, Tricks and Scams for Your WDW Vacation!" (Bamboo Forest Publishing, August 2011) ... Well, does it really
surprise you to learn that "Our Kingdom of Dust" takes you to all
sorts of behind-the-scenes spots at WDW? As you read through this book, you'll
join Blaine as he bicycles backstage at Disney's Hollywood Studios as well as
.. the entirety of EPCOT Center's perimeter ... We went into Costuming and got pictures of the
two of us trying on silly Cast Member outfits. We passed the Illuminations
barge, tied to a dumpy looking dock in a dirty lagoon. We saw the shell of a
sub from the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride sitting in a field behind the area
slotted for the unbuilt Equatorial Africa pavilion. Then we hopped on a Cast
Member bus and rode it all the way to the Imagination pavilion, where we
stopped to visit the maintenance bay for the ride vehicles. I briefly
considered starting an axle grease fire and laughing like a maniac as the whole
pavilion burned to the ground. But it wasn't the building's fault that the ride
As I said towards the top of today's review, how strongly
you feel about the changes that have been made to Epcot over the past 20 years
will pretty much determine whether you'll enjoy reading Leonard Kinsey's "Our
Kingdom of Dust" or not. So if you're a Friend of Figment who can handle some
pretty adult material, then this paperback is probably the perfect book to bring
along if you're planning on spending at least some of your next WDW vacation
poolside at the Poly.
I read Dark Side of Disney, now I'll have to read this especially since I've been trying to write something similar (an adult work of fiction set in Disney World) for a while now.
Your "Spoilers Ahead" warning wasn't fast enough. My childhood has now been raped.
My sentiments exactly. I was pleasantly surprised at Leonard's first read.
The Dark Side quotes about the sub jumping on a cast bus is completely made up. So I'm not sure if that was the case as a made up adventure or something that truly is based on fact. Maybe someone can enlighten me on this.
I'll want to hear more about this book before I add it to my collection of Disney-related books as it seems a little too sensational and more like the whining you can read about for free on message boards. If the guy hadn't been to Epcot in a decade after hundreds of visits, Epcot must have gotten stale for him. I remember Horizons, and the more pseudo-educational future world of Epcot, but in the end its about having attractions that the average guest wants. I'd be more upset if Spaceship Earth was radically changed into a thrill ride than the end of Horizons. I do miss Body Wars, or at least the idea of a Wonders of Life Pavilion . . . maybe one day they can put a real ride in there.
Thanks for taking the time to read and review the book, Jim!
@Tom - "Our Kingdom of Dust" is fiction, although some of it is grounded in reality. But it would sort of spoil the fun if I let on what was made up and what wasn't!
@Bob - the EPCOT rant is maybe 1 page of the book, and is more of a plot point. The book is about a guy who decides to "live" at WDW and ends up befriending a lot of strange people, most of whom are hooked on a designer drug known as "The Dust". It's also sort of a coming-of-age story. You can check out the first 20% on Smashwords, and you can also use the "look inside" feature on Amazon to dive into the first chapter or so.
I bought this for my Kindle as soon as I read the review, and it was OUTSTANDING. I had trouble putting it down. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.
FInished the book this weekend. Great story with an interesting cast of characters. The Disney detail is wonderful and a little historical. As a 50 year old male who waited in line for a picture with Snow White ( while the GF was in
the restroom ), I feel I've met a few of the people in the book while at MK.. If you're a Disney fan reading this site, I think you'll really enjoy the book.
Thanks, Sergio and KF!