If mediocre Clan of the Cave Bear fanfic is a brand that calls your name, Ruby Dixon’s Barbarian Mine is the read for you! (This is book two of twenty-two in Dixon’s long running Ice Planet Barbarians series.)
Harlow was saved in two ways when the ship transporting her and other humans crashed on an ice planet (creatively called Not-Hoth). First, she was saved from a future of slavery. Second, the khui, or symbiote implanted into the chests of inhabitants to allow them to survive, also cured her terminal brain tumor. This khui knowledge comes courtesy of the aliens who already live on the planet, the seven-foot tall and blue ice planet barbarians who give the series its name. While out on a rescue mission with two other aliens, Harlow is sent to find help. While this happens, she’s bashed over the head by an unaffiliated alien named Rukh and literally dragged off to his cave.
The only word I could come up with to describe the first part of this book was ‘laughable’. Harlow basically sighs and shrugs off the fact that the two males she left behind are probably dead now, and decides to relax and roll with the whole kidnapping thing so she won’t have to go back and get yelled at. She and Rukh can’t communicate because he doesn’t have any language, but she decides within a couple of weeks that she’s in love with him. And not just because they’re Fated Mates, but because they totally get each other. Just, you know, not with words, or any kind of common ground, except sexy resonance.
Oh, see, I forgot to mention that there’s another side effect to khui: if the one in your chest likes the one in someone else’s, it’ll start resonating, or pulsing, to get you two all sexy. No, things like oral sex don’t count; gotta get that P-i-V. I have no idea what happens if the khui are placed in people other than cisgender heterosexual couples, and I also have no idea how the khui know not to activate until someone is over the age of consent. Maybe this was explained in a previous book. It would have been helpful if she’d explained it here instead of the editing malfunction where we learn twice in a few pages that the humans call their khuis “cooties”. Honestly, the khui get a raw deal here. In one scene, characters hunt the large animal whose heart tissue hosts several khui. They remove the heart, take the one khui they need, and then just… chuck the heart containing half a dozen other khui? I mean, they didn’t have anyone to put them in, but you’d think at least they’d get burned respectfully or something, since they literally keep everyone on the planet alive.
Anyway, the important thing is, after teaching Rukh the joys of handjobs and so forth, Harlow has a dream where she realizes she’s not giving her khui enough of The Good Stuff, so she decides to get up on that thing. She’s not really concerned about pregnancy despite knowing humans and these aliens are cross-fertile, and when Rukh drags her to the coast on a multi-mile hike she’s relieved, because now none of the other aliens or humans will be able to be mad at her for abandoning those dying guys the day she got cold-cocked.
With this degree of insanity, why isn’t this book a D? Because the second half is much better! I kind of liked seeing the two of them set up their Ayla-and-Jondalar knockoff caves and furs. Harlow and Rukh are found by the original group and have to join with them because Harlow is having health issues. Rukh learns to talk and has to confront the fact that his late father, the one who instilled in him that he should avoid the original group at all costs, may not have been the protector hero Rukh thought he was. I’m also grateful to any book that depicts pregnancy as a diverse experience. While Harlow’s fellow human Liz is bopping fitly through her pregnancy, Harlow is wasting away: malnourished, wan, and suffering from chronic fatigue. (Then, of course, we have to close the book with unprotected postpartum sex… after a disastrous and nearly fatal pregnancy?)
My book contained a special bonus story, the ‘honeymoon’ epilogue, where Rukh keeps bringing animals to provide for Harlow and Harlow is worked to the bone trying to preserve and store them, a part of the process he hasn’t even considered. That was my favorite section and well into a B-grade. However, I can’t guarantee that whatever copy you get will have that bonus.
Do you need some escapist guilty fun that isn’t going to require any thinking, except to wonder if you just read the same text a few pages previously? If you can get these on major clearance (or in Kindle Unlimited), there’s some good laughs to be had along with the incredulous ones. But it’s cotton candy for the brain, so proceed accordingly.
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I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.