I have become fascinated by science fiction book reviewers on YouTube. Most are young, and what’s particularly fascinating to me is how they are reading old books to learn the history of science fiction. That’s something I’ve been curious about for years, how do younger people feel about older science fiction. Of course, some of them bring a woke perspective, but I don’t mind, I often accept their criticism. On the other hand, some of the woken lack compassion for what it meant to grow up in the past.
Most of these book reviewers don’t review new books. I’m used to those book reviewers in science fiction magazines reviewing the books that are just coming out or will be soon. So I assume these YouTube reviewers aren’t getting ARCs or review copies. Some of these reviewers seem to be making money off their YouTube channel, maybe enough to make a living. Or that’s the hope. My favorite reviewer is Bookpilled, and he admits his YouTube channels are the way he makes his living. That might be changing since he’s about to become a world traveler. Not all of his videos review books. He makes money by buying used SF and reselling it online, and some videos are showing what’s up for sale.
Bookpilled is my favorite because reviews books intelligently, and with a lot of insight. I don’t know his real name, but I think it’s Matt. He actually gets me to read books. The link above is to his main site, but here is his last favorites video:
The next channel I like is Fit 2B Read. I liked this particular review because it made me want to read/reread all five books. I wish these reviewers would use their own names. I like how Fit 2B Read sought out forgotten classics. That’s what I’m doing myself. The guy is very camera ready and his show is either scripted or he’s very good at talking off the cuff. One of the main problems with watching YouTube videos is they waste the viewer’s time by either giving us information unrelated to the video or by slowly meandering around a topic or just never getting to the point.
I probably shouldn’t say this, but some YouTubers just don’t speak well enough or look good enough to watch. Fit 2B Read does a good job of being a talking head. He doesn’t get too close to the camera. He speaks fast, but not too fast. And he’s coherent. Like many of these YouTubers, he cranks out the content, finding different reasons for creating a topic to film. This doesn’t always work, but I know that YouTubers have to constantly produce new content or they’ll lose viewers. YouTube has some kind of statistical science for promoting videos, and that puts YouTubers who want to build their channel and make money on the rat race treadmill. Fit 2B Read does make some slick-looking videos.
And talk about a slick production, I’m quite impressed with The Library Ladder. His production is eye-catching, he has a radio announcer voice and a camera-ready mug. But what really wows me about this guy is his collection. I assume he’s wealthy because he often shows books that are rare collectibles. The video of his that makes me drool is the one on Gnome Press.
One of the strangest reviewers is the one for Media Death Cult. His stage name is Moid Moidelhoff, but I don’t know if that’s a real name. Moid is quite a character. In many of his videos, he’s wearing a gun. Moid goes all out for his channel. He’s even started interviewing famous writers. Here’s his review of two lesser-known Philip K. Dick novels. (He hopes to review them all.)
Next up is the Secret Sauce of Storycraft. I was impressed with her take on The Sparrow but today I watched an earlier video, Classic SciFi Sampler, and she disappointed me with how many mistakes she made and how often she admitted she didn’t know something and didn’t want to look it up. That was an older video and I think she evolved quite a lot. Right now I’m forgiving of her mistakes because she seems young and fairly new to science fiction. But what I like is how she’s working to catch up.
I thought the premise of the video below was a great idea. She wanted her users to know what kind of books she disliked because if she only reviewed books she liked they wouldn’t completely understand her as a reviewer. Unfortunately, she only gives a litany of her emotional reactions to the 8 books, and no useful details as to why. The reason why I liked her review of The Sparrow is she worked out a framework of ideas to judge the book and that gave me something to think about. The woman who does Secret Sauce of Storycraft does know how to make a video, speaks well on camera, is camera ready, and stays on topic. I’m expecting her to improve. She needs to give us more details about the book and I hope she comes up with more analytical thinking about the themes in books like she did for The Sparrow.
The Shades of Orange, by a young woman named Rachel, also shows potential. She gives a bit more detail about the books than the reviewer on The Secret Sauce of Storycraft. I’m showing this video because she rereads Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe, a book my friend Mike is reading, and one I’ve been thinking about reading. She starts with some new releases. I want to see more of that. I’m completely out of touch with newer science fiction.
I wish these reviewers would give more details about the books and less about their impressions. I do not like spoilers, so I know it’s hard to present a book without ruining the story for people like me. I liked how she said that Shadow & Claw was about a regressed society which she didn’t learn right away in her first reading, but made a big difference in enjoying the book in her second reading. That’s a good detail and it’s not a big enough spoiler.
The Outlaw Bookseller often creates videos on topics I’m most anxious to watch but I have trouble watching them. My problem is he doesn’t get down to business quick enough, or he digresses, but when he is on target, he’s often the most knowledgeable about the genre of the reviewers mentioned here. And he covers the books and topics I’m most interested in. For example, I recently wanted to read a D. G. Compton novel. The Outlook Bookseller does give the level of detail I want, but he sometimes tells too much about the story. The details he does give are a description of what happens in the book. That’s great if they aren’t spoilers, but I also want analysis. The Outlaw Bookseller does give me most of what I want from a review, but I have to admit the presentation doesn’t work well for me. The reviewer has the details I want but gives them too fast, and in a kind of stream of conscious way that’s hard to hang onto cognitively. I think I would do better reading his reviews. I’m sticking with this channel, trying to adapt to the presentation, because this guy knows his stuff.
My guess is these YouTube book reviewers (BookTube?) have a greater potential of promoting and selling books than bloggers and magazine reviewers. I’d like to find reviewers who focus on new books, so if you know of any, give me a link in the comments.
James Wallace Harris, 5/6/23
5 thoughts on “Science Fiction Book Reviewers on YouTube”
Thanks for this. I’ve only watched, very rarely, a couple of YouTube book reviewers of sf, and none of these.
I have to admit that I’m rather suspicious of the whole venture. Why are you telling me about books in a video medium? If your thoughts were organized, why not just write them down? And it’s often easier — and faster — to read a review than watch one.
But us bloggers are like primitive cyanobacteria inhabiting a few warm tidal pools while cultural life is evolving in the vast video oceans.
Still, I may check out a couple of these channels.
Huh. I approve of these peoples’ selections and tastes mostly.
Not just the Bookpilled guy, but the ones talking about works like Budrys’s ROGUE MOON and MICHAELMAS, Sterling’s DISTRACTION, Ballard’s VOICES OF TIME, C. Priest’s THE AFFIRMATION, Paul Park’s SOLDIERS OF PARADISE, and D.J. Compton. Nice to know those authors haven’t lived and worked in vain.
I’m having an unexpected moment of optimism, actually. Because there’s several orders better taste and judgment on display here than I see from, say, most of the reviewers nowadays at LOCUS magazine, who often seem to prefer fantasy and YA, and hate and fear science fiction if/when they even understand what it is.
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Good point, well made about the reviews at Locus. Spot on.
I’ve caught most of the reviewers discussed here, and like James said in this post, the needs of the format that YouTube imposes means a lot of repetitive calls to action that become tedious to listen too again and again.
Still, it’s good to see an interest in SF both old and new. Feels fresh.
Great post and list. I enjoyed it. I appreciate your thoughtful mention. Thanks. I watch all of the channels you mention and regularly interact with many of them often. I love the different styles of presentation. I recently talked quite a bit about D.G. Compton’s Farewell Earths Bliss recently, so cool to see him mentioned here as well…
I watch all of these, except for Shades of Orange, some more than others, plus a number of fantasy orientated ones. I watch them simply to learn about all the books I haven’t read and in the case of the Outlaw Bookseller, the theory of SF. Truth be told, I have no interest in reading most, if not all of the books, they talk about, but I enjoy learning about them anyway. BTW, I think the Fit 2B Read fellow is a fitness instructor, maybe online? Anyway, someone who’s accustomed to motivational speaking. You are the person who first pointed me to these booktubers several years ago, when you linked to Moid’s list of 100 best SF books, or some such thing on your blog.