BOOK REVIEW – A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Lexicon by Rich Handley

By Marty Mulrooney

BttF_Lexicon_Cover

A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back To The Future Lexicon by Rich Handley is a staggering encyclopaedia featuring over 3,000 alphabetical entries listing every possible detail, no matter how small, that can be gleaned from the sprawling Back to the Future universe. Covering the films, screenplays, cartoons, novels, video games, card game, amusement-park ride, music videos and more, the book also features over 25 full-page interior sketches from artist Pat Carbajal, produced exclusively for this volume.

As we quickly spin forward in time toward the series’ 30th anniversary in 2015 and beyond, there are still a plethora of very pleasant surprises which lie ahead for Back to the Future fans. Rich Handley’s A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Lexicon is a prime example of this, standing as a testament to the endurance this series still has today, and the grip it holds in the hearts and minds of its legions of fans.

Foreword by Stephen Clark (BTTF.com)

A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back To The Future Lexicon opens with a wonderful introduction by noted expert on the Back to the Future mythos Stephen Clark, who has operated the Internet’s very first and longest-running Back to the Future website, BTTF.com, since 1995. His genuine enthusiasm and extensive knowledge is infectious – when he promises that the reader is ‘about to embark upon an incredible journey of unmatched research and creativeness’, you truly believe him.

Thankfully, Rich Handley was without question the right man for the job. To collect all of this information into one ‘heavy’ tome must have been a mammoth task – it is no exaggeration that this will likely become the equivalent of the bible for many Back to the Future fans from now on. After reading the foreword and introduction, the sheer size and comprehensiveness of The Unauthorized Back To The Future Lexicon can be almost overwhelming at first.

Yet the clever layout and design of the book by Paul C. Giachetti makes it very easy to dip into without getting lost. Each double-page spread is bordered by hand drawn dials and wires in the style of the DeLorean’s interior. The top right of each spread shows a digital display – 88 would look perfect here of course, but instead this space is used to show a specific letter of the alphabet.

It’s easy to flick through the book to the required section and look up an entry, for example in the ‘J’ section: ‘Jaws 19: A 3-D sequel to Jaws that played in theatres in 2015. It’s tagline “This time it’s really, really personal.” Directed by Max Spielberg, Jaws 19 played at Hill Valley’s Holomax theatre, with a giant holographic shark “attacking” passersby in order to promote the movie. According to the film’s poster, Jaws 19 was produced by Ark Kline, Larry Hubbs and Paul Sonskoid [BTF2].’

Each entry includes a four character code to reference the source material where this information can be found. Suffixes are also used to provide additional information. For example, [BTF1-s4] would mean the entry in question can be attributed to Back to the Future’s draft four screenplay, whereas [TLTL] would indicate that information was taken from Telltale Game’s Back to the Future: The Game. Each page features a code guide in the margins for easy reference, but the code is quickly learnt and you’ll soon be recognising that [BFAN-20] stands for the animated series’ 20th episode.

The information provided is comprehensive, extremely detailed and for the most part, fascinating. You’ll learn the names of minor characters from the films, discover plot points taken from deleted scenes and early drafts, and read extensive family trees. Then you’ll discover even more from the extended universe of comic books, animated shows, and even the now sadly discontinued Back to the Future: The Ride. There is also a detailed ‘Episode Guide’ at the back of the book, as well as a list of all Doc’s inventions, and a list of each of the main character’s relatives past, present and future.

If there is any criticism to be aimed at A Matter of Time, it would be that sometimes it’s just too comprehensive. For example, we now know that ‘1’ is the designation of a television camera on the set of the Mr. Wisdom children’s TV show in episode 26 of the animated series! Such details can admittedly feel a little bit OCD in their inclusion, but then you’ll read about another of Doc’s inventions that you’ve never heard of before and secretly start to geek out.

A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back To The Future Lexicon provides a genuinely enjoyable read for Back to the Future fans, with beautiful drawings for each section provided by artist Pat Carbajal. Think of this book as an investment – you most likely won’t read it from cover to cover straight off the bat, but you’ll be dipping into it for years to come, especially after rewatching the films.

Sometimes the information contained within can be too specific and the gallery  at the back of the book featuring 160 covers spanning three decades (film posters, home-video releases, novels, comics, video games and more) suffers in quality from being printed in black-and-white. Despite these setbacks, Rich Handley must be commended – he’s done a great job. He even received a highly positive review from Back to the Future co-creator Bob Gale! ‘Unauthorized’ by no means indicates half-heartedness. A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back To The Future Lexicon is as authoritative as it gets. Well worth checking out if you’re a Back to the Future fan – you’re bound to learn something new, it’s only a matter of time!

8 OUT OF 10

AMO_alternative-offerings
GAME REVIEW – Back To The Future: The Game – Episode 1: It’s About Time
GAME REVIEW – Back To The Future: The Game – Episode 2: Get Tannen!
GAME REVIEW – Back To The Future: The Game – Episode 3: Citizen Brown
GAME REVIEW – Back To The Future: The Game – Episode 4: Double Visions
GAME REVIEW – Back To The Future: The Game – Episode 5: OUTATIME
INTERVIEW – In Conversation With AJ LoCascio (Voice Actor – Marty McFly)
Mini Interview – Back To The Future: The Game – Episode 1: It’s About Time (What Does AJ LoCascio Think?)
Mini Interview – Back To The Future: The Game – Episode 2: Get Tannen! (What Does AJ LoCascio Think?)
Mini Interview – Back To The Future: The Game – Episode 3: Citizen Brown (What Does AJ LoCascio Think?)
Mini Interview – Back To The Future: The Game – Episode 4: Double Visions (What Does AJ LoCascio Think?)
Mini Interview – Back To The Future: The Game – Episode 5: OUTATIME (What Does AJ LoCascio Think?)
FILM REVIEW – Back To The Future (25th Anniversary Theatrical Re-Release)

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