Cover Image: The House of Styx

The House of Styx

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Member Reviews

A huge thank you to the author, the publishers, and the Netgalley team for the opportunity to review "The House of Styx". 
The work touches the very basics of human instincts and behaviors, with all flows and limitations, being cognitive and emotional. 
Venus is getting colonized, but not everything goes as planned, "humankind", colonizing society is far from perfect and very basic behaviors start to interrupt the "normal" life, which is not only jeopardized by harsh environmental conditions, but also by the behavior of colonizers, which, are very primitive and instinct-based, and the very basic physical needs, health support is limited. Ironically not too far from reality... 
But as always, among filth and human ugliness, there are perils, who are not only intellectually above the average but also thrive for better life of loved ones, can change everything. 
I loved the world-building, it was very imaginative and descriptive, interesting to read, however, the work was getting slow at many points and was getting to details where we didn't need too many and missing details in some place, where I wish we had a bit more elaboration. 
Maybe it is due to being the very beginning of the series, I will continue reading future parts of the series and this rating may change based on the second book. 
Many thanks for the opportunity to dive into this world.
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Thank you to NetGalley for letting me read this book. 

Well, this is proper Sci-fi. There's a slight whiff of Jules Verne here - in the world-building, but also the feel of the society. Venus is being tamed - there are pioneers here, exploring the depths, putting their lives at risk, being rugged individuals - and there are the people (literally) at the top - trading, doing politics, negotiating with banks, imposing order. If this were the Wild West, they'd be the mayor and the storekeeper, and the bank manager - keeping their hands clean. 

Throw into this a mysterious breach in the fabric of time and space, and a great cast of characters wit very 21st century dilemmas and desires. It's great. I really hope that this is the start of a series, because I want to know what happens next.
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The House of Styx  is, at its core, a tale of family. It’s about the arguments which divide us, the shared moments which bind us together. The traits that we pick up from our parents, our siblings, our children. The ideals and the flaws that we pass on, or that we absorb through osmosis. It’s a story of one family, doing extraordinary things to survive, and maybe changing the world.
It’s also, and I can’t forget this, a story about Venus. Because that’s where our protagonists are, hanging in the cloud belts of Venus. Their bedraggled, run down, on-the-edge-of-perdition craft teeters from layer to layer, resource harvesting giving the means for a subsistence living, albeit one with at least the illusion of freedom.  Family is the narrative centre of the story, but the heart of it is Venus. Every decision, every moment, is shrouded in actions which the environment makes necessary. The howling acid storms leave each individual very alone against the night, and find families hunkered together in tight knit universes of their own construction. Each craft in this Venusian society, this colonial society, is surrounded by a world which is trying to kill them, and won’t even notice if it succeeds.

Künsken’s prose is evocative, and shapes a Venus which is wonderful and terrible in equal measure. The cloud layers are all different, and the Venusian surface is a sight rarely visible. Being on that surface, rarer still. With its hostility, its searing winds, crushing pressures and generally horrifying weather, it’s still somehow a place that feels alien and new. A stark and unknown sea, with desolation yes, but also a kind of stark and lethal beauty. This is a Venus which feels like an entity in itself, brought to life by Künsken’s vivid descriptions as we walk alongside some compelling characters.

And they’re an odd bunch, that’s a fact. Colonials, descendants of Qubequois, sent out to scrabble on the scraps of the solar system nobody wanted. The settlers in turn separated from the separatists, and now Venus is their own. And beneath both these layers of stubborn independence and anti-colonialism, live our family, whose choices decades before have doomed them to the margins of a marginal society. From the adolescent struggling with their identity, to the father so stubbornly ensconced in his own skin of old grudges, around to the elder siblings, living life in the shadow of their parents tragedies and choices, and around to the eldest, whose life was the hardest choice of all - they all have something about them. An essence, a humanity. So many weaknesses, and destructive tendencies, and rages and misunderstandings, yes. But also a love that is less transcendental than bred into the bone: family first, always. The family of deep diving Venusians speaks to us, and in its loyalty, in its bonds that creak across generations and across old wounds, it says that there is truth and honesty in love and family, and in not just the family you’re born to, but the family you find and grow yourself.

The story is...well, I won’t give it away! But it’s rather clever, a story of engineering, of getting around the towering depths of Venus. Of taking up that once chance you might have to change the world. And while doing that, trying to keep out from under the nose of a government who are, themselves, trying to keep out from under the nose of the Banks, who everyone must owe. It’s a science fiction story, in that it asks big questions about colonialism, and about gender, and about family, but it does so within the bounds of an imaginatively crafted world, where crafting poetry to shape the soul of Venus lives alongside the hard engineering problems needed to survive within its body. There’s something for everyone here - the romantic and the pragmatist married in one story; those here for the characterisation will be delighted by the protagonists, while those who love their world building will struggle to find anything as convincing as Künsken’s Venusian skies. And the story, well, it left me reading at 2AM, trying not to cry and determined both to finish the book, and that it couldn’t end this way, that I wanted more.

So I can recommend it in good conscience; it’s a marvellous book, and well worth your time.
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The events in this book took place on the planet, Venus. Many years in the future, human beings have succeeded at colonizing the various planets. French Canada got Venus. However, the planet's atmosphere is so hostile that the citizens of La Colonie all live in the clouds. 

The story focuses on the D'Aquillon family, namely Pascal and the patriarch of the family, George-Etienne. Many years ago, George-Etienne and his wife found out that their first child, Jean-Eudes had Down's Syndrome while she was still pregnant. Not wanting to waste resources, the doctors and government urged them to abort the fetus. Enraged at the injustice, George-Etienne moved out of their habitat among the clouds and down to a bio-engineered home closer to the planet's surface. Down there, they had the rest of their children: Emile, Marthe, Chloe and Pascal. Marthe eventually moves back to the habitat to be the family representative within La Colonie. Emile lives up there with her as a result of a falling out he had with George-Etienne. Their brother, Pascal stays lower down with Jean-Eudes, George-Etienne and Alexis (Chloe's son), where they illegally collect metals for sale on the black market. Chloe and her husband, as well as the siblings' mother are all dead due to different incidents. However, Pascal and his father soon found an anomaly on the planet's surface during an illegal trip and are determined to find a way to use it to their advantage.

Honestly, the story was too slow for my liking. I read other reviews where readers said it got interesting after the first quarter but unfortunately it didn't happen for me. There were also a lot of technical details within the book which bored me. I probably would have stopped reading it a long time ago if it wasn't for the fact that once I start a book, I must finish.The family drama was a bit more interesting and I would love to see how it all works out in the rest of the series. 

As much as I would love to see what happens with Pascal and the rest of the family, I cannot say for sure if I would continue this series. 

I would give this book a 'R' rating. This is due to some sex scenes in the book.
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One of the better sci-fi books I have read this year! Life in the roiling clouds of Venus is daunting and challenging, but many families have adapted over the years, harvesting energy from storms in their living trawlers, basically grabbing their lives and raising families against the brutality of planet Venus. Looking forward to the second in this imaginative series by Derek Kunsken!
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The House of Styx creates an incredibly detailed, immersive world with well-thought out science, technology and social norms. The story was an interesting family and technology driven one, and I enjoyed the LGBTQ representation within the novel. Derek Künsken brought to life a world where soaring through clouds of acid rain is the norm, and social friction and corrupt banks undermine the safety procedures that keep everyone safe. The world-building is impeccable, and while at times the science seemed overly technical for my tastes, I know there will be plenty of sci fi fans that will find this work exactly to their taste. 
The tension between settlers, coureurs, the government and the bank provided a constantly shifting political backdrop that was fully-realised and all too relevant in today’s political climate, and I thought in particular the fatalism of the artistic members of the colony was a facet of world-building that truly added to the world. 
I loved the focus on family that grounded and motivated the D’Aquillons, and provided friction for a good number of the sub-plots too. I loved the contrast of Emile and his father, and the Quebecois-space-farer culture of the deeps was a fascinating touch. Marthe was incredibly well-written, and I look forward to learning more of Alexis, Jean-Eudes, Gabriel Antoine and the rest of the House of Styx in future books. Even Gaschel was well-motivated and developed, and she only appeared in a handful of scenes.
The lack of sexism in this novel was refreshing, and without spoiling anything, I thought the trans-subplot of one of the characters was incredibly sensitively-written. I was glad to see in the acknowledgements that the author made sure to research this thoroughly. The representation of characters with disabilities was also handled well.
The political situation presented in The House of Styx was frighteningly realistic, and the grim calculations of who ‘deserves’ health care was genuinely moving. Emile’s poet’s outlook was a welcome touch to the novel, providing a less scientific approach to the problems and solutions of living in a world so alien from our own. Drawn out paragraphs of imagery are not usually to my taste, but the strong emotional undercurrents of Emile’s personal challenges seeped into every observation he made, allowing for some beautiful parallels to be drawn. 
I do wish the conclusion of this novel had closed the chapter more fully on a certain situation, and I refuse to accept the major development that occurs towards the end of the book. I haven’t read a hard-science sci-fi book in a long time, so I don’t really have many books I can think of that reminded me strongly of The House of Styx in tone or content; however the focus on family and the cultural undercurrents are somewhat similar to Ilona Andrews’ The Edge novels, though those books are fantasy, rather than sci-fi, and much lighter reads. 
I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys technical, believable sci-fi with a strong technology focus, and a dose of political and social commentary to boot.
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I couldn't get into this book at all. The primise was so intriguing but I just couldn't get into it at the time I attempted to read it. The writing style was good and very descriptive. It was a little too sciency for my tastes but I know it was a Scifi so I'm not faulting it for that at all! 

I think anyone who loves a good Scifi would enjoy this but for me I couldn't get into it. I do like the authors writing style and will be looking at his works in the future!
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La colonie has built a life in the inhospitable clouds hovering above the hellscape that is the surface of Venus. They live their lives in man-made habitats or native floating plant-like trawlers, surviving in any way they can despite the roiling storms, extreme temperatures, and acid rain. 

One family, les D’Aquillons, has sunk to the dangerous depths, cut off from the government’s aid and grieving their losses. Until one day a trip to the surface leads to a discovery that could change everything. 

The House of Styx is one of the most fully realized hard sci-fi novels I’ve ever read. La colonie has history. They have developed their own culture and hierarchy. They struggle to find meaning in the formless clouds above a planet that will do anything to end their lives. 

This novel explores grief and loss, gender identity and queerness, addiction and self-harm, and so much more. The characters are incredibly well developed and deeply flawed, and I found myself quickly getting attached. I was also pleasantly surprised that les colonistes originally hailed from Québec, as a bilingual Canadian myself. 

There is a dangerous beauty to the setting of this tale, and Künsken’s imagery captured my imagination from the start. 

I honestly can’t think of anything I could want from this story that I didn’t get, and I can’t wait to read the next installment. 

Trigger Warnings: Loss of a parent, self-harm, abuse of drugs and alcohol, suicidal ideation, gender dysphoria, violence

Thank you to NetGalley and Solaris for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I received a copy of THE HOUSE OF STYX thanks to the publisher through NetGalley. 

I tried to read this, but it was just not for me. I can definitely see the appeal though. It gives me reminders of THE MARTIAN but more sciency and less humor. It is written very well, and the characters are interesting but not enough to keep me invested in such a large book that is only the first of a series.
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Firstly, apologies this review wasn't completed before the book came out... I am sure NetGalley said this was coming out much later in the year,.

The House of Styx is the first books in the Venus Ascendant series by Derek Kunsken. 

If you follow my reviews on Goodreads, or on our blog, you will know I read a lot of epic fantasy. However, I have been wanting to read more Sci-fi, which I have been hunting on NetGalley. After reading the synopsis on The House of Styx, though short, I was very interested. The cover also attracted me; it looks like a giant explosion, which after reading the book you realise is a representation of the Venusian atmosphere… a horrible place to live!

The House of Styx follows the D'Aquillon family, who are viewed as rebels. They refused to abort their child, who was to be born with Down Syndrome, though they were told he would not be entitled to medical care or rations. The family made the decision that none of them would receive rations or medical care and moved lower into the Venusian atmosphere: a tough life where they had to be self-sufficient. The mother, eldest daughter (Chloe) and her husband have all died, leaving the father, four children and a nephew.

The father is stubborn and rules by force of will. The three other POVs in the book are three of his children: Emile, who is an alcoholic, drug user and hasn’t spoken to his father for several years; Marthe, who holds the families vote in the assembly and is their political voice; and Pascal, a sixteen year old self-taught engineer.

The world Kunsken has created is imaginative and bold. Venus is a planed the larger nations and banks ignored. Subsequently, people from Quebec colonised the Venusian atmosphere, living at different altitudes (on habitats and trawlers), where the conditions vary wildly. The colony separated from Quebec, something Quebec was more than happy to allow, and they were now in debt to a bank, which influences the colony’s politics.

The House of Styx starts off at a rapid pace with two of the family fighting to save a trawler. We are then introduced to the family members still living in the lower atmosphere, fighting for their survival. It is here where we begin to learn about the Venusian atmosphere and how people live there… it is horrid, was my thought! A very difficult life with many challenges.
After this we are introduced to the other POVs that the story focusses on and I felt the book became a little too slow for too long. The world Kunsken has created is interesting: the politics, how people live, communicate, and get around, but something felt slow to me. 

I didn’t enjoy Emile’s story arc much. I felt it was too bland and predictable. The typical outcast of the family who has fallen out with his father, blames the world for things, so he drinks and does drugs. But he didn’t do anything exciting, or bold, or unexpected. It felt like a missed opportunity.

At around 20% of the book, if it wasn’t an ARC I probably would have put the book down and read something else. Not to never finish it, but just to take a little break, because I was still interested in what happens. I stuck with it and around about a third of the way through the book the story pace picked up again. Pascal and his father visited the surface of Venus and found something very interesting. A couple of extra characters also came into the story which expanded its scope and added depth both to the story and Pascal’s character.

When I put the book down around the 50% mark, later that day I was cooking and the story popped into my head, imaging what came next. This happens all the time to me, but it was the first time with The House of Styx. I was much more interested at this point.

The depth of some characters really begins to build, as do the politics, and the job they are planning, which is where The House of Styx (family) is born. We see the real Pascal, which I won’t spoil; Marthe really becomes a leader and is a character I really like; their father is challenged in his way of thinking and stubbornness, and the additional characters add a breath of fresh air. Emile’s story still didn’t do much for me, though he evolves in his thinking and behaviour around the 75% mark. He becomes a part of the story, rather than a side story arc.

What the family found on Venus and what they are planning is something which could become an epic storyline. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for book 2. I’m interested to see when Kunsken takes this story and what the future holds for The House of Styx.
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I must be honest, I did not like the book when I started reading it. It was slow paced for me, and I did not connect with the characters. However, it is well written and the setting is quite good.
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Well written and full evolved world building. Very technical, in the style of The Martian, which goes too deep for me.  I found it hard to really engage with the characters or care where the plot was Headed. Nonetheless, think this book will find a passionate audience more in line with its premise
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This book is so well thought out. The world building is incredible. The plot is gripping. The characters are interesting and the character development is strong.  I can't wait to read the next one. 

I received this as an ARC in return for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for allowing me to read this title.
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Though the description made the book sound very interesting but it was a tad bit boring at times and long winded. I do not normally read sci-fi but wanted to try this since the description sounded interesting. The story line, characters, and plot were all good I just could not feel for the characters. I may or may not read the next in the series, but if you like sci-fi then this is a good book. The author did his homework on the abilities and possibilities or living on Venus so he makes it sound doable I just did not get into the book.
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Hmmm... This book had me very excited with its gorgeous cover and interesting subject. 
I did love the setting and a culture different from my own to learn from. However sadly I did not learn much from it. I think it had a great concept but executing it was in a style I am not fond of. The writing was very technical and space and machine talk. Yes it is set in that setting but the way it is written such as long paragraphs on sulfuric acid and machines etc.. kinda bored me. I wanted more meat on the people and motives and backgrounds. I mean they had downs syndrome and queer characters yet I dont feel like I got to know them much or exactly where the plot and stories were going. They did get there but it was just not in a style I enjoy alot. I do however think there are many people who would enjoy the way it is written and also the open ideas and very current topics that are shown in this book that people of today can relate to. 
I would say read it for yourself and see what you think cause reviews seem to be mixed but mostly favorable on this one. I thank Derek Kunsken for his hard work and interesting story and for him and netgalley allowing me to read/review this book. I greatly appreciate it.
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The House of Styx is the latest hard scifi offering from Derek Kunsken and a prequel series to his his Quantum Evolution series. The story is set on a near future Venus colonised by French Canadians because no-one else wanted it. With good reason: Venus is spectacularly inhospitable. Deadly sulfuric storms and incredible pressures make living anywhere but in the clouds above the surface practically impossible. Even living in the clouds is a constant, dangerous challenge. Venus's inhabitants live in huge floating plant-like creatures that float through the sulfuric clouds and live symbiotically with lightning from the storms. They fly through the clouds with wing suits and modified planes, are frugal with their shared resources, and are in constant faustian pacts with the external banks to acquire resources necessary to keep their colony alive, while having very little in the way of resources or exportables to pay those loans off with.

We follow members of the D'Aquillon family - rebel outcasts who live in the lower pressure systems after they defied the colony's orders to abort one of their children with Downs syndrome, voluntarily cutting themselves off from all access shared colony resources such as medicine in protest. We rotate perspectives through Pascal, the youngest is an engineering genius and struggling to grow up in the narrow sphere of experiences offered in Venus and the family, Marthe, the family's  representative in the political upper 'rangs', and Emile a struggling poet and family screw up. 

The best part of this novel is the worldbuilding. It's comprehensive, detailed, well-thought through and shown consistently all over the place throughout the novel. Venus is a character in this as much as any of the cast. She's shown as capricious, deadly and unknowable. You can learn to live with her, but you'll never truly understand her and she will never really love you. She barely accepts you. Trying to reconcile this tension is something the characters deal with constantly in their own ways and no-one ever seems truly at home on Venus. Familiar with her? Yes. Relaxed and comfortable? No.

Showing how our cast lives here takes a lot of time and is shown in a lot of interesting ways - the habitats, food production, salvaging, technology, shared resources, black markets and cultural quirks like waiting for people to be clear of sulfur after coming in to the habitat before touching them. It all makes it feel very real and lived in. The characters showed a good breadth of what life is like in different places on Venus - upper vs. lower 'rangs', haves and have nots, powerful and not so. Kunsken has done a good job, too, of showing diversity in the cast as well (to go into detail would, perhaps, be spoiler-y). Kunsken has really thought through the ramifications of what feasibly living on Venus would require and what a society built around that could look like.

I think the hardest thing to accept while reading this, though, despite all the worldbuilding and the embedded, real characters, is that I struggled to get engaged in the plot. The hook took a while to emerge and even when it did it progressed slowly. This is very much a first, establishing book and I found it struggled for pacing keeping my interest. There is only so long I'm going to keep reading about someone looping through the air or talking about how the world is here. There are external antagonists - the banks and the President - and conflicts among the characters, but they felt more like grit than real driving forces. The main plot was interesting (and took me an embarrassing amount of time to link to the Quantum series), but also unspooled slowly. I really wanted to know what came next with Pascal's discovery, but we only got to the doorstep of that this book. Something Kunsken demonstrated really well in his Quantum books is really tight plotting and pulling characters towards a goal, so I think it's a deliberate choice to approach this series differently. I suspect the worldbuilding set up in this book is necessary to allow for the more expansive plot movements that will happen in books 2 and 3, but it did mean that book 1 was light on for things happening. 

I also never really got into Emile's subplot. He never really integrated with the others' stories, and while he played an important emotional role in the end and showed the distance a lot of Venus's inhabitants feel from their new home, I struggled getting through his sections.

An ok first book - the world definitely has potential and I would still race to pick up anything Kunsken writes, but this series might not be for me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Solaris/Rebellion for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Finding so much heart and poetry in a hard sci-fi novel is akin to finding a [spoiler alert] in the heart of Venus

TLDR; I was blown away by what Derek Künsken has put together. Now, let's have the second book. And the TV adaptation.

 House of Styx is taking us on a journey of "what if": what if the major players of Earth had already colonized (or staked their claims of) the obvious planets like Mars, leaving Venus and its cloud oceans of sulfuric acid for those gallant few (Quebeqois Canadians who became independent) who are willing to risk a life of unimaginable hardship? And "what if" it was indeed possible to create flying habitats among these sulfuric-acid clouds and spend your life without ever seeing the sun or walking on solid ground? What would that do to a person?

The House of Styx has all the makings of a space opera that could easily rival The Expanse series. It starts deceptively slow at first (I've seen other reviews on GR complaining about the pace — personally I disagree), immersing you into the nuances of the tech specs. We're introduced into this strange world through the eyes of a hardened family of coureurs des vents (a play on the Canadian coureur de bois, the unlicensed fur traders and woodsmen in New France), who are trying to survive by harvesting "trawlers" (I imagine them as a kind of a mix between a tree and an electric eel that lives in the clouds, that has electricity and can be bio-engineered as a habitat). They've already lost family members both because of the storms in Venus and their perfunctory government's bureaucratic approach to medicine rations. 

Very soon, we're doing a deep dive into the emotional landscapes of these characters  — and the depth we find here is both surprising and heartbreaking. There's Pascal(e), the 16-year old engineer of the family, whose internal struggle with his own identity provides a window for us to speculate on the hidden character of Venus herself, hidden behind her clouds. I don't want to give too much away about what Pascal(e) is going through but I found the execution of this plot line so thoughtful, sensitive and elegant that makes you want to jump into the page and hug them. There's the brilliant Marthe, the older sister who can play the political game as well as any Game of Thrones character but without losing one ounce of her big heart... Marthe's decisiveness propels the book forward; she brings everyone together. She's the reason the House of Styx, a found family bound by a dream, even exists. And then, there is Emile: the trainwreck of a brother may be one of the most annoying characters until the end, as he can't seem to get his act together, but he gives Künsken the opportunity to deal with some issues you don't often see in such depth in science fiction. Like, how do you define spirituality, how do you deal with concepts like "soul" and communion when you live on a planet that wants to kill you? And how can you create art and poetry in such a world? For being my least favorite character, Emile has some profound lines. 

But perhaps the most fascinating character of this book is Venus herself. The planet that hides an impossible secret inside her core. I don't want to spoil too much, because I'm guessing we'll untangle this mystery further in the second book, but it's certainly not something you expect to find within the core of a planet. When Pascal(e) and his Pa make that discovery, it can and will change everyone's lives. 

P.S. This is a personal opinion, but I really enjoyed discovering so many well-rounded, queer characters in this book. Gender identity issues and discussions around ableism were done beautifully, only adding to the story. 

PS2: Thank you to the NetGalley and the publisher for offering me an ARC of this book. The fangirling is 100% my own.
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Not really what I expected not really in to science fiction.Story did not really do it for me could not finish book to far fetched,and could not understand what was meant to be achieved.Sorry
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Setting up a colony on Venus, as you might imagine, would be something of a challenge and its harsh sulphuric atmosphere would undoubtedly affect anyone trying to live and work there. There are consequently a lot of hard bitten characters among the Venusian colonialists in Derek Künsken's The House of Styx, the first a new series of SF books set in this hostile environment. Although this first book has a good intriguing hook to keep you reading, the tough nature of this environment and the characters provide some developments that could be just as challenging for the reader.

Ideally, if you make an important scientific discovery in a place like this, one moreover that gives the first indication of intelligent alien life, you would imagine it would be carefully investigated and treated as a subject of close careful study. In reality however the truth is that any important knowledge or discovery like this is likely to be exploited for financial gains. That's Künsken strong point in The House of Styx; amidst the hard-SF examination of how a community of settlers might exist in the harsh fiery environment of Venus, he also gives realistic consideration to the political and financial pressures on colonists indentured to the government and to the banks, not to mention the historical, personal hardships and family rivalries that might prevent people from doing the right thing.

That's the choice faced by the D'Aquillon family, coureurs des vents, windrunners, who make their living on the lower levels of the sulphuric atmosphere of Venus herding trawlers, bio-engineering the organisms that thrive at this low level where few willingly venture. Indeed the major Earth powers didn't find much to establish any kind of settlement on Venus so it's been left to the independent state of Quebec to set up a community and political system that in theory should operate democratically for the benefit of everyone. Obviously that isn't always the case and because of historical differences during the 40 years that the colony has been established the D'Aquillon family have struggled along mainly independently of the system, even though they have a representative on the Council.

Just as they are being threatened with having their assets nationalised, the family make an astounding discovery on the surface of the planet where, for obvious reasons, few have ventured. Having noticed some unusual wind activity in one of the deepest chasms on the planet, Pascal and his father Geroge-Étienne D'Aquillon have sent probes and cameras down and made an extraordinary discovery. Immediate necessities for survival in these difficult times however means that they are reluctant to make the existence of this discovery known to the rest of the settlement, and they have their own plans for what they have found. The scale and implications of their discovery however are likely to be more far-reaching for Venus and the settlement in the longer term.

Künsken does well to take in the wider considerations of the situation. New worlds are going to require financing and regulation and are always going to come up against the unexpected. He also makes efforts to show how humans would struggle to cope in an alien environment, not just first generation colonists and workers, but other problems will develop and persist because of the way that humanity is hot-wired. This takes on different forms, from artists and poets trying to relate to these new sensations, to characters who try to block it out through sex, drinking and drugs, all of them struggling to maintain a troubled relationship with a difficult planet.

As is often the case with hard SF writing, the human characterisation is fairly basic and weak, with much more effort going into making the science credible and the society workable. The struggle with sexual identity is an attempt to broadens the characterisation, but Pascal's awkward young adult concerns and urges feel misplaced in the larger story and are very skip-overable. Much of the technological descriptions can also feel superfluous, but the effort to put a scientific basis behind the story is good and the discovery on the surface of Venus offers considerably more scope for surprises and a wider canvas in the next book in the Venus Ascendant series.
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House of Styx is the first in a new science fiction series set on Venus. The story follows members of the D'Aquillon family as they try to survive and make a living for themselves above the surface of Venus and as outcasts from the government. The world building in the novel is excellent and imaginative and the descriptions of the clouds of Venus and how the characters fly from habitat to habitat are mind blowing. All of the different conditions of Venus that they must continually be aware of just for basic survival are so numerous, that the colony lives on a knife edge. The living trawlers that the colonists live on and farm on are so unique, I can't remember ever reading anything like them. Add in to this all of the political maneuverings that go on, you get an intricate story that moves briskly with characters that you really want to root for to succeed. The family makes a discovery that will change the course of their lives through the choices that they make to remain free of government control. The discovery is so significant it could change the course of the entire Venus colony. I found all of the characters so interesting, well fleshed out and the struggles they go through on a daily basis very relatable. The internal family dynamics are both endearing and heartbreaking. Pascal's journey as a transgender teen coming to grips with all of his/her feelings is so well written and has some truly heartbreaking moments. A very enjoyable read and looking forward to where the story goes from here.
Synopsis; In the swirling clouds of Venus, the families of la colonie live on floating plant-like trawlers, salvaging what they can in the face of acid rain and crackling storms. But Venus carries its own secrets, too. In the depths, there is a wing that shouldn't exist. And the House of Styx wants to harness it.
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