The House of Styx by Derek Künsken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've honestly not had much experience with many SF titles that directly deal with Venus, so this is a very nice treat for me.
Yeah, sure, I've read some older titles that have been made laughable by the ACTUAL conditions on the planet, the huge pressures, the deadly acidic atmosphere, and any number of technical difficulties that would make anyone consider this planet a HELL rather than any sort of love goddess.
Fortunately, I had a really good time with this one because it directly deals with those issues. We get terraforming, survival in the clouds, and the full colonial (and anti-colonial) experience.
It is very much a modern novel in all respects. Our main characters transform this into a family drama that touches on everything from economic disparity, identity politics, how we treat the disabled, all the way to a secretive rush toward a *spoiler spoiler* exciting goal. :)
I enjoyed this quite a lot. There were definite tones of, say, Iain McDonald's Luna series. The technical detail is very much in line with the classic Arthur C. Clarke. But the story... well, the deeper over-story... that is also rather Clarkish. :) That's a good thing, btw. No spoilers, but that part is very, very fun.
Not an easy one to get into but like most books that start this way, once you're invested there is no stopping until you have a book hangover. I've been looking for a good sci fi book to fill my shelves and I'm so glad I found this one. Give it time, let it unfold and breathe and you'll be grateful for the time spent.
I was not expecting to be so blown away by The House of Styx. In the year 2255, human colonies have set up residency on Venus. But things, as they're prone to do, start to go wrong - the political system is crumbling into unfairness, and there's a wind that simply shouldn't exist.
There was a fairly large cast of mains, but I found myself enthralled in all of them. I will admit, I was not expecting a book that combined sci-fi with elements of gender identity, sexuality, disability, all while being intriguing and fascinating at the same time.
I absolutely adored the scientific element of The House of Styx. While not necessary, and one could certainly enjoy the novel with little to no understanding of the scientific elements, I am a nerd at heart, and adored being able to understand the chemistry.
The pacing was a little slow at the start, but I was still interested in learning about the different characters, learning who had a point of view and who didn't. The plot, and various character-based sub-plots, kept me on the edge of my seat right until the very end.
The book was full of exciting quirks and diverse and loveable characters, and I would happily recommend this to fans of sci-fi.
Huge thanks to Netgalley and Rebellion Publishing for the opportunity to read this ARC - I will definitely be purchasing a copy when it's released.
This will be an incomplete review, but I wanted to write something before this book is archived. I'm halfway through, and I have enjoyed this book immensely. The science does go over my head at times, and I have a hard time seeing things in my head, but that could be because it's set on Venus. I gradually got a hang of what each rang was, but I will need to do more research on Venus herself. The mystery of what is on Venus is keeping me hooked along with Pascal's journey to finding himself (herself?). That storyline was a pleasant surprise. And the positive Down Syndrome rep is beautiful. I can't wait to read more and do a more thorough review. Thank you for the ARC.
At first I could not get into this book. It took me forcing myself to make it past the first chapter and then I was able to enjoy it to a certain extent. Overall an interesting book, but I am not sure I would read it again.
I love an excellent fantasy novel! The world is gorgeous and the characters are so complex! Will definitely buy a copy when it comes out!
The idea of venturing to another planet has always intrigued me. So, when I read the synopsis for this book, I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Except for Ray Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day, I have never read anything about living in Venus. I had next to no idea what kind of world I would be getting into.
The writing was simply immaculate. The detailed description brought the world and each character to life. I also loved that the plot did not just focus on The House of Styx’s heist – amazing as it was. It also heavily revolved around politics, family drama and gender identity.
The first few chapters were a bit intimidating to me. I struggled to catch up to what was happening and what they were talking about because the worldbuilding unfolded slowly. Künsken only mentioned and explained what was relevant to the current scene. This slow and deliberate worldbuilding, however, only made it more authentic to me. I loved that the book did not try to explain how everything in Venus worked in one cascade of information as this would have overwhelmed a lot of readers (including me!).
This book is an incredible introduction to a promising sci-fi series. I can’t wait to see this book make it big when it gets released in April 2021.
There are no spaceships, battles scenes or interstellar journeys in this first instalment of Derek Künksen’s Venus Ascendant duology. Rather, it is an intimate tale of family, identity and belonging, set in the richly symbolic and sulphuric clouds of Venus.
“Forty-eight kilometres of dark, poisonous, baking atmosphere beneath them. Thirty kilometres of bright, poisonous, cooling atmosphere above them. Nothing around them but clouds and haze.”
The House of Styx is contemporary science fiction writing at its absolute finest, with Künsken striking a perfect balance with his characters, politics and world-building. While the book is rich in detail, it isn’t weighed down by the technical language. Instead, Künsken’s description of chemistry, physics and technology illustrate the hardships and dangerous beauty of life on Venus, enriching the story.
“Beyond the little window was Venus herself, naked in her grey and black basaltic glory, close enough to touch. She was beautiful and deadly, life-giving and ugly, aspects she reconciled without apparent difficulty.”
The setting is one of the most engaging things about this book. The characters have a spiritual relationship with Venus, a drive to connect with it more deeply even as they struggle to survive in its acid clouds, something that is explored in depth throughout the story. The environment in which the colonists live is written in stunningly visual and immersive detail, the ever-present Venus both setting and reflecting the tone of the book, adding to the feeling of in-betweenness that the characters experience.
The House of Styx is written from the perspective of different family members, an approach to a novel that feels fresh and exciting with many beautiful and heart-wrenching moments. Part of the joy of this book is getting to know the D’Aquillons more deeply and understanding their unique personal journeys. Künsken has told important and under-represented stories through characters who have down syndrome, autism and one struggling with their gender identity.
With themes of family, love and identity that transcend the genre and the setting, The House of Styx is a clear reminder that SFF is an under-appreciated literary genre. I would recommend this book to fans of slower, deliberate space operas like Ancillary Justice and A Memory Called Empire. It also reminded me of Yoon Ha Lee’s Phoenix Extravagant having similar elements of family, art and rebellion.
The eBook will be published on August 20th and is available for pre-order, while the hardcover edition will be published April 2021 (and will occupy a place of pride on my bookshelf).
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger warning: self-harm, suicide, addiction
I didn’t really know anything about this book going in. I knew what the synopsis told me, and I knew the cover was absolutely stunning, and that was it. This book exceeded every single expectation I had for it. The plot centers around the D’Aquillon family, who emigrated from Quebec to Venus (yes, the planet) to live a better life, and they discover something that could change everything forever. What are they willing to risk to not only give themselves a chance, but also generations after them?
This book is so beautifully written. There are metaphors woven throughout that really being everything to life and you feel like you’re actually living in the harsh, sulfuric acid atmospheric world of Venus. I enjoyed watching the characters grow and become the person they are towards the end. I loved Emile, growing from this alcoholic, pot smoking brother who wants nothing to do with his family, to someone who steps up because it’s when he needs to do. I also loved Pascal, who starts off so shy and unsure of who he is, to someone who is becoming more secure with himself and leans to love who he is.
This book is more than just about a family struggling to survive in a harsh environment. It’s about these characters you fall in love with, trying to make a better world for themselves. It’s about struggling to survive in an environment this is constantly testing them and throwing everything at them. It also has themes of classism, sexuality, politics, and even a small romance thrown in, but it doesn’t constantly smash you over the head with it.
The only thing I didn’t like was how long the book is. At 866 pages, it is not a light read. However, that being said, it is needed. The author does a brilliant job of setting up this amazing fantastical world, and uses every bit of those 866 pages to do that. He also gives us so much information, but it helps every single part of this story, and just makes it better. All in all, I absolutely loved it. I couldn’t put it down once I started it, and I highly recommend this book.
I am thankful to netGalley for letting me e-ARc of the house of styx. OMG it was a wonderful read. I so so loved it. I don't read a lot of sci-fic but this one was exceptional. I was totally hooked. It was so different and unique. I kept thinking: wow the author is so genius.
It involves science (chemistry, Physics and Biology), mathematics, arts (a different kind of arts but still, arts). I totally loved the chemistry related stuff as chemistry is my subject. The house of styx is full of knowledge and wisdom.
'Family comes first....
...A rage didn't tower. A loss cast no shadows. A heart couldn't ache.
The quotes from the book made me ponder many things.
It wasn't just based on imaginary things. It showed flaws in humans in a precise way. Each character had her/his own part in the story. The book clearly portrayed that everyone struggles with different aspects of life which happens in real life as well.
The politics was so scary (atleast to me). I was so so nervous and scared the whole time. Taking advantage of others, the selfish nature of humans, the compromises, the hypocrisy, the sacrifices etc, everything was there in the book.
I was so so annoyed with Noelle, Theresse and Emile but I think I understood Emile a bit later in the novel. My heart broke for Marthe. Marthe is my favorite. Pa's sacrifices for his family made me shed tears. Pascal and Pascale's struggle (OMG it was full of emotions).
the cliffhanger in the end....I want to know what happens next.
The books is a rollercoaster of emotions, get ready and buckle your seatbelt. Highly recommended.
The House of Styx promises to be a lush, action-packed science fiction novel about humanity colonizing the planet Venus and their struggle to survive, farming oxygen and other essential nutrients that they need to simply exist. Venus is difficult, to say the very least, and la colonie exists in the clouds, where everything is rationed and controlled to make life as easy as possible in an impossible place. But when the D'Aquillon family is told to abort their child with Downs or lose medical support for their entire family, they leave as a unit and live in the lower levels of the atmosphere where it's even more difficult to survive.
And the world-building of The House of Styx is definitely what it claims to be. Every detail of the world is fleshed out and considered and described, to the point where the world and the planet seems like its own specific, individual character. So much attention to detail went into the description of life on Venus, its struggles, its class system, its infrastructure. This is definitely the author's biggest strength.
Unfortunately, for me, it came through as the book's biggest weakness as well. While the world and the atmosphere were lushly described and so much detail was paid to them, the characters didn't get the same treatment, and I found myself struggling to feel anything for any of them even though I really wanted to. This novel promises disability representation and trans representation, and both of those made me excited to read this book. Unfortunately, by the time I got that far, I felt almost too bogged down by the world description and just didn't feel connected to any of the characters.
The first 25% or so of the book was a chore to get through and it's likely that if I had been reading this as a library book or something I'd picked up at the bookstore, I would have put it back down. I know some readers are used to having to wait before they can really sink into a story, but I also know that a lot of readers will try the first 100 pages or the first couple of chapters to see if a book is their style or not. The first quarter of this book almost feels like an entirely different book, so it feels necessary to put a "stick it out" warning on this review.
Thank you the publisher and to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
The book is a first in the series Venus Ascendant. The moment I started reading, it reminded me of the beginning chapters of Red Rising by Pierce Brown; both are quite similar. The science stuff in the book is way too advanced. It’s intriguing but at the same time boring, there is in detail description about the workings of Trawlers, the flight suits, the communication systems, the drones etc, but if you keep that aside, the story is beautiful. The foundation of the whole story is one simple phrase “Family First”. Even though George-Etienne is a difficult man to reason with, he is fiercely supported by his family for his ethics and values. When Marthe and Emile are on the verge of losing their house, the entire family comes together to trick the government and forge their own path.The best of the book is the understanding between the family members in spite of their differences, it’s the most realistic one can get to genuine family dynamics.
The House of Styx is written in the same wavelength as the science fiction I read when I was younger: space exploration, alternative lifestyles, rebel characters, and cosmic heroes. Kunsken style is cinematic, ending chapters in stirring and emotional cliffhangers.
The majority of the characters are easy to like and comprehend, although not all. I, personally, thought Therese had a lot of potential when introduced but she fell flatter as the book progressed for me.
The House of Styx, in the vein of classic science fiction, deals with human earthly issues in otherworldly settings, which, counterintuitively, makes some of this issues more approachable. Kunsken master this quality of the genre with this book.
The ending left me a little deflated, but maybe this is another one of the author's masterful cliffhangers: after all this is the first book in a series.
Unfortunately I don't think this book was for me. I don't often read science fiction but if i particularly like the sound of a premise, I will try it. This time, it didn't work out for me.
I want to start off by saying I loved the setting and every aspect of the world building. It was a struggle to follow the setting and the details for the first few chapters but as time goes on and the science behind everything is fully explained, it feels a lot more plausible and organic.
However I feel there was too much focus on the personal quirks of various characters, some of which was rather over the top, and got in the way of the story at times. Because of this, rather than a solid sci-fi it seemed more like a soap opera set in Venus.
I also didn't realise this was the first in a series. I wasn't entirely happy with the conclusion of the story, this may be different if I'd known from the start that it was going to be part of a series. But at the same time I don't feel interested or motivated enough to read the next book.
Nonetheless, Derek Kunsken's writing was always clear and had a certain poetry to it that I really liked. I think if I was to read this again, going into it with a different mindset, I might enjoy it a lot more.
Overall, I would rate this book 2/5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley and Solaris for providing me with an advanced reader copy of the ebook in exchange for an honest review.
When I came across The House of Styx on NetGalley I found myself drawn to the title and to the premise. The novel, set in the 23rd century, imagines what it would be like if Venus was colonized (in this case by former citizens of Quebec). It is a small community, around 4000 lives living and working to make Venus home, no matter how inhospitable she makes it for her new residents. Derek Kunsken has done a phenomenal job with world-building, the level of detail he goes into describing the different types (and quality) of habitats, to the care that the inhabitants must take when venturing out into the acid rains and different atmospheric pockets of Venus was astounding.
The House of Styx centers on the D'Aquillon family who are living pretty much off the grid in the lower rangs of Venus, relying on themselves and the resources they are able to harvest and trade to survive. There are some strong personalities in the family which adds to the drama.
Personally, for me, I found myself more interested in the budding political system on Venus and the relationship with the Bank (which I'm assuming will be explored in greater detail in subsequent books). The first half of the book was more science-heavy, explaining how the colonists survived in Venus' hostile atmosphere. It was interesting, but it felt slow at parts which made it a book I would read a few chapters at a time and put down, this was not a light read, even though it wasn't that lengthy of a tome. The second half, however, once the world had been built and the character relationships established is when The House of Styx really began to shine. I wanted more intrigue, more risks, and the second half paid dividends.
There were a few things in the book that I found distracting. First and foremost was the inclusion of French. I understand that the colonists were originally from Quebec, but the way the dialogue was inserted into the conversation was not consistent and did not feel natural. As a reader, I felt that it pulled me out of the moment. The second was how fickle relationships seemed to be. The D''Aquillon family motto "of family first" did not seem to apply if you disagreed with Pa. Although it seemed like because of that type of mentality that most of the relationships the D''Aquillon children engage in are just as fickle. The final thing that bothered me (and I know that this the first in a series) was that the first half of the book felt so technical and hard to get into, and when things finally start getting exciting the book ended. Did it leave me wanting more? Yes. But I don't know if The House of Styx sucked me in enough to give the next installment a go.
If you are a serious fan of science fiction you will love The House of Styx, but if you are more of a casual fan like I am, it may not be for you. I would rate this book 3.5 stars for the incredible world-building, but the story didn't thrill me the way I hoped it would.
This is not my kind of book. Good Science Fiction books are deeply rooted in Science and amplify it via fiction. Now this book is a very creative story on planet Venus, but the world it describes is hard to follow. All the French names and nouns make the book feel translated from French, and the translation may has not been optimal and needs a lot of editing. I read German and English, but pretty much avoid any translated works of fiction. The books seems not only foreign as far as the place of the action, it also feels foreign in the words, names and descriptions. As if the author did not have sufficient vocabulary in English.
The House of Styx is the first novel in a new series. A science fiction novel which explores the hard perilous lives of the colonists of Venus. French-Canadian settlers live not on the inhospitable surface of the planet, but in floating habitats in the middle and upper atmosphere. The D'Aquillon family are the main protagonists, scratching out a dangerous living., without even the recourse to medical support from the colony. Farming the plants floating in the atmosphere and scavenging materials from the surface. It's an extended family, with young engineer Pascal being my favourite character.
Skilled world building, well plotted storyline and great characterisation. I particularly liked the description of the living habitats, floating plants and the challenges of the hostile environment. There's political intrigue, family dynamics, and interesting characters including a man with Down Syndrome, whose continued existence is the reason the rest of his family don't have access to medical resources.. There is a sensitive exploration of gender, sexuality, disability, mental health and drug use.
I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this series when it's published! Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC copy of this book.
I first want to say thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this book. The House of Styx is my first introduction to Derek Künsken, and it certainly won’t be the last time I read him.
As a biochemist, immunologist and educator, this book just flowed through my mind with such ease wanting to be taken in to this world. The first thing that grabbed me about the book was how effortless his descriptive prose was. Künsken describes the environment of Venus so well it just keep pulling me in. I was not bothered by the intermittent "French" words as some may have. Having the knowledge of "French" allowed me to flow through this book with ease. The book felt so real that I could really believe this type of thing might not be far away.
What really makes this novel shine are the characters. The loss the D’Aquillion’s have experienced in their time on Venus is palpable to a reader as does the ruthless environment they work to domesticate. Künsken does a brilliant job. I almost cried a few times reading this story, and the massive cliff-hanger, I was so shocked and had to check that I had not missed something to the book.
I highly recommend this to SF fans and those who maybe teetering on the edge of SF. I cannot wait to see what happen as the secret the D’Aquillion’s have found is probed even further.
There's parts of this book that I really adored. I thought it had some fascinating ideas that it propounded to do with the setting, and the world-building was marvellous in parts, but it got perhaps too bogged down in the creation and not so much in the characters and their drive. The characterisation was lacking severely, and while there were some touching moments (especially between siblings), they didn't connect with the rest of the story. It felt like this was trying to broach into the epic annals of Dune whilst balancing being a family saga- I just don't think it struck that balance quite as well as it could've.
I do have to give props to the author for some fairly solid queer representation throughout the book, and the exploration of trans identity was pretty good too. It's not a representation that we get to see very often, and so it was really nice to see a book that went into that. I did feel like the French was a little shoehorned in, and it didn't really fit the rest of the book particularly well. I feel like there was a wonderful opportunity to take it a bit further- and there was such a sad disconnect there. I can understand that there was a point to be made regarding the lack of termination of the child with Down's Syndrome as well- but it felt a little clunky in its making and the meaning got a bit ambiguous.
More than anything, I just hoped for a bit more from this, and I didn't get it. It was a disappointing state of affairs, and there were just so many missed opportunities in this book that I wish the author had taken.
The idea of humans colonizing Venus is an intriguing one, and the author has done a fantastic job in imagining just how arduous it would be.
The story follows the D'Aquillon family, relegated to living below the clouds, eking out a living by using trawlers to harvest materials from the atmosphere, which they sell on the black market. The family lives in a harsh environment, and has suffered tragic losses, and each has a burden to bear.
There are some incredible scenes that are wonderfully described - you can feel the claustrophobia of the bathyscaphe as it descends to the planet's surface amid the rising temperatures and increasing pressure; the exhilaration of flying in a winged suit high above the clouds, when Pascal sees the sun for the first time; the pain and fear as acid rain drips through a torn suit, where every second counts.
The story builds up, layer by layer, and you soon find yourself invested in the characters and their fates. Broken and flawed, struggling to find their way however they can, I loved the character development throughout the book.
A great start to a the series, I look forward to reading the next book. Highly recommend. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC.