Friday, December 17, 2021

REVIEW: Ice Planet Barbarians (book) by Ruby Dixon

Ice Planet Barbarians is sci-fi romance (erotic romance?). I bought it brand new. From what I can tell, it was previously self-published.

This review includes slight spoilers.


Georgie is an ordinary 22-year old woman who works at a bank drive-thru teller window. She wakes up from a weird dream to discover that she's been abducted by aliens, along with several other 22-year old women. One of the women, Kira, was implanted with a translation device, so she's able to tell them all what's going on. They've been abducted to be sex slaves, and anyone who screams or puts up a fight gets raped. Even so, Georgie doesn't want to give up, and she is saved from horrific failure by a conveniently timed crash landing.

Unfortunately, now the surviving women are stuck on a icy planet with only a small amount of food, no heat, and a high likelihood that the aliens that kidnapped them will be retrieving them in the near future. As the group's unofficial leader, Georgie heads off to look for food, help, or anything else useful and soon finds herself under the care of Vektal, a big blue alien with a tail, horns, and a love of cunnilingus. Georgie is somehow not horrified, and Vektal doesn't seem to be interested in hurting her. Has she found someone who can help her and the other women?

This was another Walmart impulse purchase. I like sci-fi romance, and publisher's description made it sound like a nice plane read. I started it the day before my flight...and finished it the same day. So much for my plane reading plans.

I enjoyed this, but at the same time I'm hesitant to recommend it, for several reasons.

First, it includes a few things that would normally be red flags for me. Georgie is unconscious when Vektal first meets her. She wakes up when he recognizes her as his soulmate (basically) and finds himself compelled to perform cunnilingus on her. I am normally grossed out by characters who want to perform sex acts on unconscious people, and I could have done with a different sort of Georgie and Vektal introduction scene, especially considering the book's earlier rape (which, judging by the author's note, was originally more on-page - I'm glad that was changed). Georgie's lack of horror at Vektal's actions wasn't really believable, but it did at least help make that introduction a little less gross. It also meant that I revised my expectations for the kind of sci-fi romance I was going to get much sooner than I might otherwise have done.

Which leads me to the second reason I'm hesitant to recommend this: its heavy emphasis on sex over everything else. Yes, it's sci-fi romance (or erotic romance?), but the sci-fi aspects aren't written to work well on their own and have some pretty gaping holes. Instead, it's all designed to enhance the sex. Georgie and Vektal are somehow physically compatible despite Vektal being both an alien and much larger. Vektal has various bony ridges in appealing places. The whole "alien parasite" thing somehow works for two species who aren't native to the planet, and the only even vaguely inconvenient side effect is the possibility that two beings who might not even like each other could end up being soulmates.

It reminded me a lot of the "futuristic romances" I read in my teens, except Vektal was deliberately written to not be an overbearing jerk. In her author's note, Dixon wrote that she'd started this series because she was burned out on writing motorcycle club books with "mean heroes" (308) and was aiming for something sweeter (in the emotional sense). I think that's one of the reasons this worked for me as much as it did. Dixon took great pains to show that Vektal wouldn't do anything he thought might hurt or upset Georgie. If her reactions to something he said or did were negative, he backed off and adjusted his behavior. Theoretically, if Georgie had been genuinely afraid of Vektal or otherwise unwilling to have sex with him, he'd still have done what he could to keep her safe on his hostile planet but would otherwise have backed off, introductory cunnilingus notwithstanding.

Overall, I enjoyed this once I revised my expectations for it. Yes, it's heavy on the sex and light on interesting and fresh sci-fi aspects, but it was still fun to watch Georgie gradually figure this world and Vektal out, and I liked that Vektal never got upset with Georgie, despite moments when she did things that, from his viewpoint, were pretty stupid (although I did occasionally think that more frustration on his part would have been warranted).

Bonus story: "Ice Planet Honeymoon: Vektal & Georgie"

This one made me cringe at first. Georgie's request for a honeymoon seemed ridiculous and childish considering the circumstances, and Vektal, as chief of his tribe, likely had lots of other things he needed to be doing instead. Although I continued to shake my head at the way Vektal and his tribe coddled Georgie and the other humans, especially considering the strain they must have put on their resources, it thankfully turned out that Georgie wasn't just being a pouting, spoiled child.

That said, this story didn't add much and was only so-so. I'm still glad the author included it, because ending the book with Georgie's embarrassing efforts at learning how to hunt would have been worse.


An author's note and a "People of Ice Planet Barbarians" section that's helpful considering the book's many secondary characters (aka future book fodder).

The author's note gave me some good background info on this book's publication history, but I winced a lot at Dixon's apparent knowledge gaps where sci-fi romance was concerned. She also viewed science fiction as being very centered on men and male readers, and I found myself wondering if she was aware of even the most prominent women authors in science fiction.

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