Saturday, April 4, 2009

Back to the Future II (Gardner, Craig Shaw)

Rating: 3.5
Year: 1989
Genre: Sci-fi, comedy
Read again? Not even for a DeLorean.

Going into this one totally blind. I know I've read it once before, but I couldn't say when that was. More than a decade, less than two. I really just don't want to go back to Lackey Land, so I'm looking for some shorter books to fill in before I go diving back in.

Doc Brown grabs up Marty and his girlfriend Jennifer for a quick trip to 2015 to fix a problem with their kids. Of course things don't go as planned, and bad guy Biff Tannen manages to steal the DeLorean. He goes back 60 years to 1955 to give himself a gift that'll change the world: a sports almanac for 1950 to 2000. Biff gets filthy rich and ruins the future Marty just fixed! So now it's up to Marty & Doc to go back to 1955, get the almanac from Biff, and return things to the way they were. The ending is a cliffhanger--this and Part III were filmed back-to-back and released a year apart.

Gardner's take on the story isn't as smart or tight as Gipe's. If Gipe played Marty McFly as a junior McGyver, Gardner makes him as an idiot who learned nothing from his recent adventures. This could easily be the fault of the screenwriter (story by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale, screenplay by Gale), trying to go for goofball comedy. Unfortunately, this one's not as much fun as the original. Much of the 2015 arc of the story depends heavily on gags from "Back to the Future": the skateboard chase of 1955 becomes a hoverboard chase. Marty's son Marty is another George McFly, and Biff's gransdon Griff is the king bully who makes the kid's life miserable. The story feels like a cheap knockoff of the original. That's worth a point.

Gardner's style puts me in mind of an over-actor hamming it up for the audience. He had more fun in writing this book than I did in reading it. I do have to wonder, though, whether he has a spelling dictionary around, and how it would recommend the spelling for "gigawatt"...which Gardner consistently spells as "jigowatt" (but at least he's consistent). His own original stuff--the Ebenezum trilogy, the Wuntvor trilogy, and the Cineverse trilogy--are highly entertaining, and I don't really know what went wrong. Half a point.

I have no idea how this book compares to the movie; I saw it once years ago, but don't remember anything but Michael J. Fox in drag as Marty McFly's daughter in 2015.

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