Thank you to Penguin Workshop/NetGalley for a copy of Another Dimension of Us in exchange for an honest review. 

Summary

In 1986, Tommy Gaye is in love with his best friend, budding teen poet Renaldo Calabasas. But at the height of the AIDS crisis and amidst the homophobia running rampant across America, Tommy can never share his feelings. Then, one terrible night, Renaldo is struck by lightning. And he emerges from the storm a very different boy. 

In 2044, Herron High student Pris Devrees jolts awake after having a strange nightmare about a boy named Tommy and a house in the neighborhood the locals affectionally call “The Murder House.” When she ventures to the house to better understand her vivid dreams, she happens upon an old self-help book that she soon realizes is a guide to trans-dimensional travel.

As bodies and minds merge across the astral plane, Pris, Tommy, and their friends race to save Renaldo from a dangerous demon, while uncovering potent realities about love, sexuality and friendship. — from the publisher.

Historical fiction?

Times of great social upheaval — epidemics, pandemics, wars — bear strange fruit. The art to come from these times is undoubtedly some of the strangest tasting of flavors, nutritious and poisonous all at once. Mike Albo’s Another Dimension of Us reconciles with the reverberation of the AIDS crisis up through to today’s COVID pandemic, with distant vibrations of US America’s other crimes.

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I was born in 1987, so I didn’t live through the AIDS crisis my (only slightly older) forequeers did. I don’t think the generational trauma from that crisis has escaped my generation. I felt shockwaves during the initial waves of the COVID pandemic and then Mpox … my point is, if this is the terror feel, I can’t begin to imagine how older queers feel. 

Another Dimension of Us packages all that pain and sorrow into sci-fi that’s giving Inside Out meets Stranger Things with hints of Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s truly a brilliant concept. And I hated reading it. 

Photo of author Mike Albo (man with salt and pepper hair, slight beard, wearing white t-shirt with a blue overshirt)

Author: Mike Albo
Image: Ali Levin Photography

Pull those triggers

One of the great things about being a book reviewer is that I read things outside my comfort zone. In my private life, I prefer escapist fluff and romance novels. I’m not opposed to reading or watching media that makes me sad or uncomfortable. It’s just … the real world sucks enough. My issue always comes back to: How much real-world pain do I want to subject myself to while reading? What am I gaining from this?

On the other hand, writing is a way to work through our traumas, and it seems Albo is doing just that. I get it. I wanted to support that. It’s an exciting process to see on the page. There’s a lot of creativity here; even with the summary provided, I didn’t expect Another Dimension of Us to get into the Akashic records (quite literally, in fact).

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Should you read it?

When I look at other review sites, Mike Albo’s Another Dimension of Us has middling reviews, receiving some low star ratings for being poorly executed and/or disturbing. For one, I found the novel well-executed and easy to follow.

Secondly, when I say the novel upset me viscerally, it is not to put you off from reading it. Another Dimension of Us is not a bad book — it is a good book with very upsetting themes. That’s not for everyone. 

Another Dimension of Us is out on January 17, 2023. Pick up a copy at your local indie bookstore or library. 📚🌌

Content warnings: Racism, homophobia, bullying, queer death (including a trans woman of color), kidnapping, pandemics.

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