The folks behind the unofficial Universal books (as well as the Other Orlando books) have put out a new edition of the Universal Orlando volume, and it's a doozy. I have to say, I really like this guidebook. It knows how to balance the tone. Neither breathless nor relentlessly negative, it's above all lucid. The reader comes away knowing the facts, which are presented in a manner that generates buzz and excitement, but in an authentic way. The expensive (but fun) mini golf that opened recently, for instance, is here said to be a satisfying, if expensive, way to spend an hour or two. Clear, informative, helpful and *balanced* way to say good things about a resort that has come so far in the past five years.
It does what all guidebooks do: offer advice on when to come, how to get there from the airport, and then comprehensive essays on every attraction in the parks, most with five or more paragraphs, saying pretty much everything that needs saying.
This being the 2013 edition, it's updated with all the stuff that's new. And the book helps you realize just how much really is new! Despicable Me, mini golf, Blue Man Group's new show, Universal's Superstar Parade, revised Spider-Man, Cinematic Spectacular. You won't read about Transformers, which was announced just yesterday (and after the book went to print), but that's part and parcel of the theme park world. There's so much new, especially at Universal, that any book is out of date to some extent even before it's printed. You also won't find much on the Harry Potter expansion, since that's still unannounced even as of this review.
One thing I rather liked: the sections in the book where color photos were bunched together. This is an old trick invented years ago by other publishers, but it works to give you some color images in a book that otherwise would be plain black and white. It straddles the line of keeping costs down, while also providing a sense of color to the book.
The book retails for $15.95, but as of this review, Amazon has a massive 45% discount and you can get it for under $9. It's hard to imagine such a price being anything but a bargain. Particularly if you're from out of state and Universal Orlando is part (or all) of your plans for your Central Florida visit.
Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.