After nearly forty years, four movies, numerous cartoon shows, and multiple video games, Ghostbusters remains a very important part of American culture. James Greene Jr’s book A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever takes a deep dive into the history of the Ghostbusters phenomenon.
The author starts his history before they were even called the Ghostbusters and takes us all the way through to the most recent movie, and beyond. Greene put a lot of work into his research and any Ghosthead (if you know, you know) will appreciate the dive into Hollywood’s messy side.
[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Lyons Press for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever contains some spoilers!]
A detailed history of Ghostbusters
The original Ghostbusters film was released in 1984 but Greene starts his tale in 1951 when Ivan Reitman was four years old and fled Czechoslovakia with his parents. He then traces Reitman’s introduction to Hollywood and his early career. He gives Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson a similar treatment. Even Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, and Annie Potts get a deep career dive.
There’s a long discussion about how the movie almost never got made, all the different iterations of the script are discussed, and which production companies showed interest or immediately passed on the film. I gained a new understanding of the intricacies of Hollywood bureaucracy after reading A Convenient Parallel Dimension. Frankly, I’m amazed that Hollywood manages to make any movies at all.
Greene really did his research for this Ghostbusters book and he makes sure we readers know it. There are nearly one hundred pages of notes and indexes at the back of the book. That’s nearly one-third of the book devoted to citing sources for the statements he makes. College textbooks and Research papers don’t cite this much. Nearly every sentence Greene wrote had an annotation at the end.
I was just very happy that the citations were all at the end instead of at the bottom of the page like many books. Don’t get me wrong, kudos to Greene for doing the work. And frankly, in this day and age, it’s best to show your work ahead of time before someone tries to sue you. It was just surprising the sheer amount of the book that was devoted to notes instead of the story.
A flattering picture in A Convenient Parallel Dimension
Not that anything Greene says is very controversial or likely to get him sued. He is obviously a Ghostbusters fan. He states that right at the beginning, and it shows with the amount of detail he gives his work. It comes through in the way he spins the things he writes.
Even though he gives both the truthful and the painful comments that were made by many people over the years, you can feel the air quotes and eye-rolling as he shares the opinions he doesn’t like. He is never rude or derogatory towards the opinions he doesn’t agree with but it’s clear he doesn’t agree.
This is especially noticeable when he discusses the 2016 and 2021 Ghostbuster movies. Obviously, as a fan, Greene is all in on these movies, and woe to anyone who disagrees. He does make it clear how he feels about the people who attacked the 2016 all-female Ghostbusters before it was even out though and it isn’t good.
Where Greene loses his way
In fact, when Greene talks about the contemporary Ghostbusters is when he seems to lose his way a little. The early careers, difficult development phase, dicy sequel creation, and general creator lives that he traces out before the 2000s are all done well and (sorta) impartially. It is a history in the best sense.
He maybe goes a little too far off track for some things and covers a lot of material that seems tangential at best, but there is no social commentary, even when drugs and domestic abuse are discussed. Then Greene loses his way. He begins to comment on specific political figures, countries, and situations that are somewhat irrelevant to the Ghostbusters franchise.
For example, instead of mentioning that the pandemic happened and caused problems and delays for Hollywood, he spends pages talking about where it started, how it was mismanaged, how many people were dying, and how no one cared. He definitely has a political leaning and it came through strongly in the final chapters. There is still a lot of interesting Ghostbusters information but the scholarly, well-researched voice is dropped toward the end.
A Convenient Parallel Dimension has a target audience
Obviously, a book called A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever is aiming for a target audience. If you don’t like Ghostbusters you’re not even going to pick up this book.
I went into this reading expecting the book to be a little more about what actual filming was like and the impacts of Ghostbusters on American Society. I mean the movie came out almost 40 years ago but there are toddlers today who still know who they’re gonna call. Something about that ragtag, wisecracking, ghostbusting foursome got deep into the minds of Americans and it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere anytime soon. What I got was more of a broad history of Hollywood with Ghostbusters as the lynchpin.
I think that Greene could have written a better book by focusing more on the direct story of Ghostbusters and including more of a social impact angle. He briefly mentions the first fan club but fails to talk about the people who still cosplay to this day. He mentions how there are people who love the movies that weren’t even born when the original Ghostbusters was released but the extent that it still catches the American imagination didn’t really come across.
I literally saw a child’s Ghostbusters costume in the store yesterday. And I know at least a few Ghostbusters will be at my door looking for candy on Halloween. And this is 40 YEARS after the movie came out. It’s really incredible for a movie to have that kind of staying power in a culture, but that line of thought was largely overlooked by Greene.
The movie industry through the lens of Ghostbusters
When Greene put “dimension” in his title, he meant dimension. His sprawling history is just a little too large for what the rest of the title promises. It is an interesting view into Hollywood but it wasn’t as focused as the title and his preface indicated it would be.
I was expecting a book about Ghostbusters but it was a book about the movie industry through the lens of Ghostbusters. Anyone interested in Hollywood in general or the Ghostbusters will still enjoy learning about everything it took to create this amazing phenomenon that almost wasn’t. But just be aware that it’s a little different than you’re probably expecting.
My Rating: 6/10
A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever by James Greene Jr. is available November 1. Do you plan on reading it? Let us know over on Twitter. And if you haven’t already, check out Tucker Watkins’ thoughts on how the Ghostbusters franchise can move forward!