Cover Image: The House of Styx

The House of Styx

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Member Reviews

This was a greatly written book you won't put down.  The creativity and details will keep you turning pages.
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Science fiction is my utmost favourite genre to read. So you can guess I was a little hesitant to go into this! But alas, it turned out to be a great book, just as good as if not better than The Quantum Magician! I loved reading about the various colonies on Venus and the routine activities that made for a nice change from the continuous action found in sci-fi nowadays! I REALLY LIKED IT!
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I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is AMAZING, such a good story. I can’t put it down.

I highly recommend it
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An excellent read. Derek introduces us to humans living on Venus...his world building is excellent, and I was able to visualise his world easily. What a world it is as well....cruel....Derek describes Venus as a female, not wanting life on her and trying her best to remove humans, but humans as ever prevailing......

The storyline is wonderful, the characters are well thought out and we spent time with them all to understand exactly who they were and why they behaved as they did.

It’s an exciting book, and a wonderful world. I can’t wait to return to see what on Earth...well...Venus is going to happen next!

My thanks to Netgalley and Rebellion for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review
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I *really* wanted to like this book.  The dystopian elements had potential - banks in control and punishing people for choices directly?  Ok.  You've got my attention.
There are some really interesting narrative choices in this book - but none of it seems to quite hit the payoff I was hoping for.  The worldbuilding *IS* excellent and evocative, but, some of it was definitely because it looked like the author wanted the schtick of say, swearing in a certain language, so the colony of 4000 was pulled from a very small pool in that specific linguistic area (French - Canadian).  It rubs me the wrong way because if it'd been, say, Scottish, no one would be comfortable saying 'the 4000 people were from Edinburgh and Glasgow' because...they're not the representative of that nation?  It bugged me.
Characterisation, other than some OTT (I felt) linguistic quirks, just for the sake of having them, was fine.  The book was paced in a way that meant I didn't give in easily, but it wasn't a book that I felt that I needed to finish.
Really good hard sci-fi is something I relish - but, I'm sorry to say that despite loving Quantum Magician, which is a prior book from this author, there was something just not quite...right about this one.
It's not a bad book.  It's just not as exciting or gripping - to me - as I'd like from my hard sci-fi, and I'm a huge sci-fi aficionado.
Worth reading if you like sci-fi, but it's not the trailblazing book the blurb suggests, not to me.  It's not a bad effort, but it's really not up to the hype.  Which is a shame, because it does come close in places.
As a personal note, I think part of what bothered me is Venus isn't related to the Styx.  Pluto is.  It's one of it's moons, and my brain just didn't like the missed allusions that could have been used there.  It's probably a really poor reason to not settle into a book, but when sci-fi is built on believing and investing in a world, the one 'mistake' of a misnamed house (because the river Styx is death, and I assume that's going to become more relevant and overt as the books continue) in my opinion really made the book hard to just relax and enjoy.  The bold and imaginative that I was so desperately trying to keep hooked into got nagged down by 'this isn't the right planet for that name'.  Which I agree, isn't a reason to dock another star, but was a niggle.
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Thanks to Netgalley, Solaris, and the author for an advance copy.

One of the things I look for when deciding which book I'm going to read next is its holistic themes and genres. I don't just mean fiction or non-fiction, science fiction, or action/adventure, but rather all of those things together that as a whole make up how a novel feels. You can have a book that places you center stage in the shoes of one protagonist, and the events that unfold are seen entirely through that one set of experiences. You can also have a novel that, while still full of action and dynamic events, takes a more detached, analytical view of unfolding events. Both are good novels in their own right, they just differ in presentation, and as a result, in flavour, for lack of a better term.

So when I picked up Derek's newest novel I was expecting (based on my prior experiences with <i>The Quantum Magician</i> to read a tale with fully realized characters (and accompanying backgrounds) which have a defined fit in the world they inhabit and can consequently affect changes on that world as a result of their position and drives - and a lot of accompanying explosions. And I got that with this novel. But I also got an exploration of the effects and consequences of colonialism, of class privilege (and warfare), self discovery and personal perseverance and, yes, an overriding conspiracy/mystery, a welcome callback to the same overall theme the author explored previously.

The result is a very fun novel, and a very layered one. While this was present in his first novel, I felt that it was somewhat in the background and took a backseat to the overall story. It's on full display here, and melded with the ongoing narrative to such a degree that it actually makes for a much more fulfilling experience. One of my problems with <i>The Quantum Magician</i> was actually that sometimes the background descriptions and character introductions caused a bit of a speedbump in the overall flow of the story, and I'm more than happy to say that this entry does not have the same problem.

And you actually don't have to read any of Derek's prior work to get into this one, so that's a plus. (Although I do recommend that if this strikes your fancy, you check out the author's other works as well)
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[3.5 rounded to 4 stars]

This was an enjoyable read although it was quite slow-paced in parts. I really did like the characters in this book, they were quite likeable. Each character had something to them, no-one faded into the background as the author did well to diverse characters in sexualities, personalities etc. Some of the newer books I have read both in 2020/2019 feel like they just stick lgbtq+ characters in for the hell of it, but the author was really considerate and was able to provide a solid queer representation. The author used humour really well and was able to create an exciting and diverse science-fiction future. 

So what held me back from giving this full stars: one reason I would say the wording. I always try my best to accustom myself to the way authors write but this was one of those times where I found it pretty hard to stay focused. Nothing negative about how it was written more so the author liked to go in-depth in some of his detail and description to the point my poor brain decided to check out. For that reason I didn’t get through the book as fast as I would have liked, but it did not diminish my overall enjoyment.

If you are looking for a strong character driven book, then this is one for you.
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The House of Syx explores what would happen if there was life on Venus...and an entity that wanted control of it's resources. An interesting and exciting novel.
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This is generally speaking top of the range sci-fi. It is imaginative, powerful and gripping. There are many captivating and evocative scenes here particularly those involving "flying" in the atmosphere of Venus. The idea of transferring Québecois culture to space is a good one. The use of French expressions and exclamations makes the dialogue particularly salty. The plot involving a close-knit outcast family's attempt to survive and exploit a universe changing discovery in the poisonous atmosphere of Venus and the far more poisonous politics of Venus  is engaging.

I would have given it five stars but for the fact that I found some of the character development rather simplistic and I wasn't quite convinced by some of the elements of the cultural backdrop portrayed. Be warned it is the first book of the series and quite addictive.
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I would like to thank Solaris Books and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book for free. So, you think life on Earth is hard? Imagine living around Venus. No one lives on the surface of Venus. Conditions are much too harsh. The rain that falls from the various levels of clouds above the planet is sulfuric acid and the temperature on the surface will cook you. The Quebecois folk who make up the colonists there live above the planet in giant habitats that float in the winds in the upper atmosphere. George-Etienne D’Aquillons lives with his sons, Jean-Eudes and Pascal(e) and his grandson, Alexis, on the Causapscal-des-Profondeurs. His other son, Emile, and daughter, Marthe, live on the Causapscal-des-Vents. Everything is shared, re-used and rebuilt and don’t even think of going outside without double-checking your space suit and helmet. Like many families, not all of the D’Aquillons get along, but their family ties remain strong. When George-Etienne and Pascal investigate the surface (two of only a dozen or so people to actually visit the surface), they discover a cave with enough resources to make them rich many times over. Their problem is how to mine and extract the minerals there without everyone on the planet wanting to take their find away from them. I believe this was the first scifi story I’ve ever read which takes place around Venus. I enjoyed it very much. There was lots of action, some romance, and a lot of conspiring. Both the story and the characters were great. I especially liked 16-year-old engineer, Pascal, who just wants to feel good about himself. I thought his story was written with a lot of sensitivity. It actually seemed like a lot of the inhabitants of the giant floating habitats just wanted to feel good about themselves, but not all of them will survive. This was a very exciting story. I had a hard time putting it down and I will be looking forward to Mr. Kunsken’s continuation of the D’Aquillons’s story (and not just so that I can learn more ways to swear in French).
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The House of Styx is a really hard book for me to review. I personally didn’t find it an engaging read but usually when I write low starred reviews I have lots of reasons to point to as to why. With House of Styx I don’t really have concrete reasons as to why I didn’t enjoy it and therefore I have put it as a 3 star review. I know that reading is very much a personal taste and what I didn’t enjoy might be someone else’s favourite read so I don’t want to mark it too harshly because of this.

The idea of setting a colony on Venus is an interesting one, as is the concept of these colony inhabitants originally being from Quebec. However, I did feel a little lost in places – I found a lot of the book very hard to picture, especially the trawlers – the large plants that have been modified to become their homes. If there had been a sketch of one at the front of the book along with perhaps an image of the planets ‘rangs’ and how they connected or what they looked like I might have had an easier time imagining the world but it just felt very under-sketched and confusing to me. I also found the Quebec idea was interesting but as no-one on the planet seemed to have any connection to earth or their previous lives the odd French phrases felt a little jarring.

I really liked the idea of the banks being in control of the planet and punishing citizens for life choices such as suicide or keeping a downs syndrome child. This was dark but made for a really interesting family dynamic between the characters. I also liked the portrayal of Pascal, the 16 year old boy struggling to inhabit his trans-gender identity. I think my main problem was that I didn’t understand any of their motivations for being on the planet. No-one can get to the surface and there’s no natural resources that they are sending back to earth. There is also still life on earth, so it’s not as if there’s an event which forced them to move, the bank controls everything so they aren’t an independent state or anything. It just made me question what the point of living in such a harsh environment with no perks was.

I also didn’t enjoy the plot – it was incredibly slow going. I understand that it’s the first book in a series but it felt very much like filler which isn’t what you want from an introduction to a series. We learn about a mysterious resource on the planet which is found by our main characters and kept a secret and then… nothing. We get half baked plans which seem very unrealistic such as building an entire mining colony on the surface when they can’t even survive in ready made homes in much nicer conditions with governmental support. The book then faffs around and doesn’t even give us much in the way of a conclusion to pay off the first instalment.

Overall, The House of Styx was not my cup of tea - with a very slow plot and confusing setting and I will not be on the lookout for the next book in the series I’m afraid. Thank you to NetGalley & Rebellion Solaris for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Loved it.

Sci-Fi is the perfect genre for exploring technological ideals, but also emotional ones.
I loved Emile's turmoil, and found myself empathising with him throughput the tale.  
Who knew Venus would be colonised by the French Canadians! Lol 

The first quarter or so is a slow burner, but the story starts to pull together and a fabulous pace and the tension was so tight I almost.snapped! Loved it!
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Before reading The House of Styx, I'd not long finished reading The Quantum Magician and so upon seeing that Derek Künsken had another book released after that, I needed to read it without bothering to even read the synopsis. After quite a few chapters, I found myself wondering whether this was related to The Quantum Magician so finally got around to quickly reading a bit more on the book to see that it is indeed - a new series set 250 years before The Quantum Magician. My interest rose even more!

The whole book takes place in the swirling clouds of Venus, where the families of la colonie live on floating plant-like trawlers, salvaging what they can in the fierce acid rain and crackling storms. Life is dangerous, with Venus raining acid and everything you do is just to survive. How dangerous life is in the atmosphere of Venus seems to be one of the key parts of the book with the dangers repeated throughout. Life is fragile and people spend their days simply trying to survive.

One family though discovers that Venus carries its own secrets, as in the depths there is a wind that shouldn’t exist. To harness it, a new family must be formed from three houses coming together - the House of Styx.
The character building that Künsken gets into the pages is something else. You become engrossed in them, caring for them and understanding their problems and boy do they have problems. Live on Venus is hard, being in a family in that kind of environment is hard. The father of the D’Aquillon family who refuses to give up on the birth of his first son just because he has Downs Syndrome, despite calls that he'd be a burden on already scarce resources. A son who resents his father for making their lives harder because of his decision to keep his first son, despite his love for his brother. Another son who can't figure out who he is only to discover it with some help from his sister. Deaths in the family, anger, confusion, tears, love. It's all experienced whilst maintaining just how difficult life in the atmosphere of Venus is.

You spend half your time wondering how deep Emile's hatred of his dad goes and whether he'd betray the family that he no longer feels a part of and the other half wondering what can and will go wrong with the families plan to set up on the surface of Venus away from the banks that own everything and everyone, without anyone noticing what they're doing.

In books like this, it's always nice when the details aren't weighed down by technical language. Instead, Künsken’s descriptions of chemistry, physics and technology are used to illustrate the hardships and danger of their lives without making you think too hard about it. We're not living in the atmosphere's of Venus, no one is right now. We've not even sent people to Mars. So you can't get too detailed because it's an unknown and most people probably wouldn't understand some of it anyway. The level of detail used is perfect, it's just enough to keep plausible and understandable.
As an ebook, it has the same problem as any ebook that has an appendix at the back. There are a lot of words that are Quebecois French, and whilst you can guess at some of the words, others not so much. There was a sentence about two-thirds of the way in that I have no idea what was said and by the time I finished and read the appendix, I couldn't remember what that sentence was. When you have a physical book in your hands, it's easy to jump back and forth, which I don't like doing on a Kindle. Thankfully, a lot of the words are pretty simple to guess their meaning thanks to how they're said (like swear words).

Fans of The Quantum Magician might find this book a bit harder to read as everything is a lot more downbeat. It's a harsh environment and you're reminded of that constantly, with characters worries and their actions as they constantly have to look after maintaining their equipment. It's this constant reminder of how they live their lives that make this book stand out. You're constantly told their lives are in danger because it is. I suppose the real question to come out of this book is why Venus?

I can't wait to see what comes next!
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Initially I had difficulty engaging with this book but about halfway through it started to grip me. The World building and science are excellent, but I found that there was often too much detail in the descriptions. The characters were interesting, and the Quebecoise slang  they use is great. I've learned new ways to swear! The plot is both and a physical and emotional storm. Bring on the second part.
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Thank you NetGalley and Solaris for giving me an ARC of the House of Styx in exchange for an honest review. 

First of all I really really enjoyed this book and I wish I hadn't waited so long before picking this up. This book was a lot more sci-fi than I'm used to reading however I was immediately intrigued by the world that I was in, that just goes to show how amazing the world building is in this story. The plot surprised me but in an amazing way. The only things that threw me off a little were all the sci-fi lingo and it took me a little while to get into the writing style but I definitely want to continue this series. 

This isn't just a sci-fi story though. It's a story about family, survival and discovery. We follow a family that has been hit by tragedy and has torn hoes within them. We have a lot of LGBT rep (lesbian and trans)  which I was not expecting to see but which I absolutely adored and was really well done. We also have disablilty rep (Down syndrome)  which again I was surprised but glad to see as I haven't read many books with that type of rep in it, especially in sci-fi.
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Thank you to Solaris, Derek Kunsken, and Netgalley. I just reviewed The House of Styx by Derek Künsken. #TheHouseofStyx #NetGalley

This is the book is a first in the series Venus Ascendant.  I usually do not read SciFi, but really enjoyed this and cannot wait to see what this author has in store for the future.  This reads more like a family tale of survival with a sprinkling of science fiction!
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Ok so firstly the positives. I really liked the world building and his descriptions of it are really well done and there was also great representation which I appreciated. It is a lot though so it took me a while to wrap my head around but I wouldn’t say it’s that confusing once you get into it. However it probably didn’t help that I had not read his other series but this one being set hundreds of years before I didn’t believe I needed to. I did enjoy the writing style but unfortunately not a big fan of everything else. 
The story wasn’t gripping and unfortunately the characterisation also fell flat for me. It felt like an adult sci-fi novel with YA characters and it didn’t fit for me. Some of the POVs I really didn’t enjoy and also the undertones of some of the political aspects that also relate to some real life issues I wasn’t on board with as sometimes they came across as preachy. However it is always interesting to read about different beliefs and I do not hold it against the story. 
But yeah like I said from the description I was expecting an epic sci-fi adventure and I guess it was a bit more angsty and drama filled than I wanted.
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Derek Künsken's The House of Styx is one of the most engineering-ful SFF books I have ever read; it almost felt like he took a dissertation on Venusian habitation and was challenged into spinning it into an epic saga.  If that sounds boring, you would be entirely mistaken; his characters are vivid, his worldbuilding is top notch, and the detailed scientific and engineering aspects of the novel only add to the story, showing the struggle of the colonists in an even clearer light.  Künsken allows his characters to be authentic to themselves; they aren't shaped by the needs of the plot or author, but instead deal with their own demons and aspirations.  I eagerly await the next in this series; I feel like this is the kind of SF novel I can hand to a friend who works in the hard sciences who isn't an SF reader and know that they won't spend the entire time nitpicking the details.
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The House of Styx is not just one story.

It is a collection of journeys made by many people who are all connected by one thing: Venus.

It’s a story of a young man who finds himself to actually be a young woman, a government that finds itself in an endless pit of debt, a young man trying to find his place in a society that doesn’t need poets, and a young woman who tries to navigate the complicated world of politics.

The story takes place on Venus, a planet that some love and some hate, but one that still manages to stun everyone with its beauty. It’s a hard life and everyone is working themselves to the bones to be able to support themselves, so there’s no time for anything remotely fun.

The colony is bankrupt and seems to keep digging their grave deeper, and it’s going nowhere. It’s a dead end for everyone, until the D’Aquillons uncover something that will change their fortune.

I am going to admit that the synopsis mislead me into thinking that this was an action-packed novel. I expected a mystery, but what I got was a heartfelt story about people just trying to survive. I definitely did not except to cry.

This is definitely a character-driven book, which I prefer over a story-driven book. There’s a lot of tech-talk, which I skimmed, but it didn’t take away from the story, as well as a lot of French phrases used, but given the context of the words, you can figure most of them out by yourself.

If you’re looking for a story about people in a tough world, finding themselves as they go through hardship and turmoil, then this is the perfect book for you!

*I received a free arc from Netgalley in exchange for an honest book review.
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I love books based off of myths and folklore, this book was no exception. Great characters, and great plot. I give this book a 3 star review.
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