Lately, TikTok has connected this ancient Gen Xer to current pop culture trends in the most unexpected and gratifying ways. From learning about the joys of cottagecore to feeling excited about seeing Gen Z play with makeup in bold and diverse ways, I’ve really been enjoying myself browsing the app’s curated “For You” page.
A few days ago, however, I felt somewhat unsettled when flooded with multiple videos featuring mostly women confessing that they caved into peer pressure and started reading … a book series featuring blue-skinned, well-endowed aliens who meet (and mate with) a group of human women on an ice planet named Not-Hoth. And when I say “multiple” videos I mean that 80 percent of my TikTok content suddenly consisted of BookTokers sharing their addiction to Ruby Dixon’s Ice Planet Barbarian series with a mix of defiant glee and nervous embarrassment. Suddenly, these strange-sounding books with their questionable covers were everywhere on my feed, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it all!
@literary_alexandraI’ve lost my mind. #iceplanetbarbarians #booktok #bookish #bookfyp #smuttybooks #spicyromance #scifibooks #kindleunlimited #smuttok #reader♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod
The book community on TikTok is a wonderful place with so many smart and funny people sharing their love of fantasy and romance books in very creative ways. But so far most books I discovered thanks to BookTok have been mild to medium spicy, mostly “slow burn” romances that often feature enemies becoming lovers over the course of at least three massive tomes. Sexually explicit content is sprinkled in here and there, but all in all I would rate most of the “spicy” books circulating in the BookTok community as pretty tame. Now, the Ice Planet Barbarian books … well, that’s a whole different level of spice, and one I wasn’t sure I felt quite ready to face. Yet, all of BookTok suddenly seemed all over these darn blue alien smut books, devouring the multi-part series within the span of days.
So, naturally, I read the first book in the series this week.
@bookish_valPOV: You’re stranded on Not-Hoth. #ipb #iceplanetbarbarians #rubydixon #booktok♬ Blue Blood – Heinz Kiessling & Various Artists
Why Is BookTok Obsessed With Ice Planet Barbarians?
I can’t say the whole premise of Ice Planet Barbarians didn’t slightly traumatize me when I started reading: A group of human women get abducted to a spaceship led by very creepy lizard people, only to crash on an ice planet where gorgeous blue-skinned alien men are waiting to, um, “mate” with them. Each book tells the story of one of the women and her alien lover, starting with the fiercely headstrong Georgie meeting the leader of the alien tribe and falling for the blue-skinned giant rather quickly indeed.
As a pretty vanilla person, the winged fairy men of Sarah J. Maas’ ACOTAR series were already a bit out there for me, so my kink tolerance was strained significantly when being faced with Dixon’s colorful narrative. About halfway through the book though, I started to get it. I started to understand why all of BookTok is suddenly obsessed with this alien erotica series, to the point that the first book of Ice Planet Barbarians is now number one on the Amazon Kindle bestseller list and number one in both the sci-fi and romance category.
@nyycharmReply to @dorothymalva my #iceplanetbarbarians reading update. I don’t want to keep reading but I can’t stop??? #booktok♬ Nocturne 20 in C-Sharp Minor (Chopin) – Jerome Chauvel
Because after the initial shock of reading about “ridges” on certain body parts and the weird premise of a “vibrating chest” indicating that your soulmate is nearby, I realized that Dixon just wants us to have fun with it all. Sure, the premise is utterly absurd, but the writing never pretends otherwise. Unlike some of the other smutty BookTok recommendations I’ve read lately, which tend to take the storylines woven around the sexual scenes very serious indeed, Dixon’s narration always made me feel like we were sharing an inside joke here, like she was telling her readers: “Yes, this is alien smut and the whole thing is absolutely bonkers, so let’s just enjoy ourselves together, shall we?” Also, I have to admit that there is something … oddly sweet about the way the alien men dote on their women—they basically just want to take care of them once they are mated, which includes doing all the cooking and cleaning. Truly, a female fantasy through and through!
@literarylibraMy entire FYP is a shrine to 💙🥶🗣🍆🍑##iceplanetbarbarians##smut##romance##booktok##MACscaraface##adultswim##bookish##fyp##literarylibrabookclub ##smuttok♬ VANO 3000 – VANO 3000
And I cannot help but marvel at the power of TikTok and the (overwhelmingly female) book community: The first Ice Planet Barbarians book came out in 2016, and now, five years later it is storming bestseller lists, surpassing a number of serious works of fiction from esteemed authors. I would love to be a fly on the wall at a meeting of some of the big publishing houses this week. In my head, I imagine a group of middle-aged men staring at the cover art showing a woman embracing her well-endowed alien man, trying to figure out how this all could have unfolded. There is really nothing more wonderful than a surprise success story, especially one driven by women and their love for the romance genre, given they are so often ridiculed for their reading tastes.
Now, I do need to give a trigger warning here for the first book in the series: Unfortunately, the beginning is rather rough to get through, as there are scenes depicting sexual violence and abuse. I wish Dixon had omitted those scenes, since they are also not handled well at all in my opinion, and I worry that women will start the books expecting fun, stress-free escapism (which you do get after the triggering start), only to be faced with these types of triggers. The books are also very heteronormative and oddly focused on “breeding,” with every single one of the women keen to make as many babies as possible.
Overall, it is best to read these books with your feminism and wokeness firmly switched off. Once you commit to really just going with the flow of the craziness that is the Ice Planet Barbarians reading experience, I cannot help but admit it: These books are a fun and bizarrely addictive ride indeed! Just be forewarned that there are 21 books in the series and that it is very, very difficult to stop reading them once you start.