Cover Image: The House of Styx

The House of Styx

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Member Reviews

The House of Styx.
Where do I begin?! This book blew me away. The writing was beautiful, the characters amazing and oh Venus!
It's a science-fiction work of art based on colonizing Venus and the enormous trials that come with that, but also the strength found in unexpected times and what it means and takes to be a family.
I cannot recommend this book enough
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"The House of Styx' is a skilled blending of hard sci fi in the Alastair Reynolds tradition with social questioning after Ursula Le Guin. Set on a near future Venus colonized by an independent Quebec, now the colony itself is independent but indebted to a solar system-spanning bank. Supposedly communal, but marred by the same corruption and faults as every communist society so far has experienced, the Venusian society has a fringe of poorer, more independent, black/grey market trader families who live deep in the atmosphere and call themselves 'coureurs de vents', or wind-runners. As a Canadian who grew up on tales of the Hudson's Bay Company and the coureurs de bois (forest-runners aka fur traders), and whose adolescence was marked by the 1995 Quebec independence referendum, I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect of the book.

The story focuses on one family of coureurs de vents, the D'Aquillons, who have their own family feuds and personal struggles to overcome as they explore an anomaly on the surface of Venus. Without spoilers, what the D'Aquillons do with their discovery drives a tense, engaging plot. Along the way, the characters and their relationships are sensitively explored, with a focus on the three children of the family: Pascal, a teenager training to be an engineer, Emile, a lost soul striving for art and meaning, and Marthe, holding the family together while she navigates the tricky political currents.

The world building and description was excellent. Venus herself is referred to as an embodiment, having a soul and personality. She's a dangerous planet, poor in resources and seemingly a wild and unpredictable world of storms and acidic atmosphere.

There's plenty of Quebecois swearing which will seem tame by English standards but is actually quite strong language. There are some French phrases used, but generally they are interpretable in context without needing any translation. Sexuality is touched on and gender identity explored in a gentle and non-judgemental fashion.

I was provided a copy of 'The House of Styx' for review by NetGalley and have no conflicting interests.
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Really great book. Get a copy. Now.

I've read several works from Kunsken and I think this is my favorite. The characters are just so unique and dynamic. Each one is something else. No one is a duplicate of another. And the heart-wrenching twist at the end still has me feeling emotions days after I finished reading the book. 

The Good: Characterization, plot development, science fiction elements. The plot flowed very well from start to finish yet kept me guessing about how it would end, even if I figured parts of it out. The sci-fi elements were amazing. A little over my head, but I'm not a scientist. Even so, Kunsken did a great job of explaining those elements to the average reader.

The less than good: Only thing I don't think worked for this book is the half-hearted external adversary. However, this isn't a bad thing in my mind because Venus provides plenty of challenges to the main characters, so much so that the planet itself is more than enough for the antagonist, especially as the book comes to a conclusion. So, not a bad thing in my mind, but something others might find off putting. 

The other Good: Kunsken delves into gender identity with this book and it's well done. Only once or twice did I feel like I was being preached to about gender identity. The rest of the time, I was just learning. I'm so grateful for this book, and the lengths to which Kunsken went to get it right. 

Great book. Get it. Now. I can't say that enough.
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📖 Review: House of Styx by Derek Kunsken
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐💫 3.7 stars

The House of Styx centers around a family of French Canadian colonists d'aquillon (exploring multiple pov), living in a dangerously unforgiving cosmic scape of plant-like trawlers, bathyscaphes and dirigibles, among the clouds of venus. Their life depends on the power they can harvest from storms. But what happens when during a routine visit, they discover something that questions everything they were taught to believe about their world? Featuring themes of political intrigue, love, betrayal, survival, loss, grief and family drama. I was pleased to see an array of lgbtq+ representations, disabilities (down syndrome - Jean Eudes and 'undercover' aspergers - Pascal'e') and mental health conditions. Kunsken uses the characters to explore and sometimes question morally grey areas coinciding with themes of belonging- which further piqued my curiosity (being an aspie myself). Beware though it's an emotional roller-coaster! 

Written in an almost poetic symphony of descriptions and setting, glorifying antiquated machinery within a darkscape. Whilst creating a hauntingly, beautiful brooding darkness, contrasting sometimes blatant and gritty language. I was intrigued by the group of long suffering artists (poets, sculptors and acid tattooist - performing sometimes tribal like rituals) struggling to find their way to belong. There is also an undertone of inter-galactic refugees/asylum seekers. 

It sings to the hearts of sci-fi lovers, scientists (Quantum Physics), engineers, mathematicians and geologists (astral, cosmological, geoglical exploration and adventure) and anyone feeling like an outsider. Sometimes I found the scientific descriptions difficult to understand when paired with the high page count and therefore felt lost at points. However the metaphorical and intricate descriptions created a lucidity which enveloped me and I felt I became part of the story. Thank you to Rebellion Publishing and Netgalley for sending me this book. 😊

#rebellionpublishing #netgalley #houseofstyx #scifibooks #lgbtbooks #recommendedreading #bookstagram #instabooks #arcreview #arc #booknerd #bookshelf #book #bookish
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I wasn't really sure what to expect from this advanced readers copy from Net Galley. The cover and title caught my eye, and my science fiction reading of late has been minimal. This was a pleasant surprise I must say.
The good: solid characters for the most part that are easy to keep track of, each with distinct personalities. Great world building - I have no idea how scientifically accurate any of this is, but Künsken writes so convincingly that living gasbags with habitats hanging beneath them in the sulfuric rains of the upper and mid atmosphere seem more than plausible, they seem as fact.
Great pacing and intrigue and the main plot is captivating and builds our knowledge of the world that's been built here as we go along with the tale. After the first half dozen chapters the understanding of the politics on Venus becomes clear as we see it in action. The story really picks up speed with the shorter chapters in the latter quarter of the book and becomes breakneck near the end. It's a great ride.
The bad, or at least not as good: the first few chapters were a lot of tell and little show. Infodumps galore and not subtle. I get the desire to get into the story and away from the setting by explaining everything at the start, but it's too much too fast - either that or I've become too used to Steven Erikson not telling me anything at all and letting me figure it out on my own. 
The transgender aspect of this book didn't quite seem to mesh for me - I'm not the target audience I suppose, but it seemed tacked on to me, almost like the author wanted to tick one more box, just to be sure that enough subjects had been brought up. It doesn't really add anything to the story so far, though if there is a sequel I expect this will change.
The end is rather abrupt and there's no sense of resolution. I presume again that this is because a sequel is forthcoming, though there's no indication of that in the text itself.
The Quebecois. As a non-French speaking Canadian, the French passages, though small, were a problem for me. The curses I got, and some of the words I remember from grade 9, but I think I lost a bit of understanding and it tended to break by engagement when I hit such a passage. That said, with a rudimentary understanding of French the opposite would likely occur. 
Overall, this book is worth reading just for the world building. Venus is often overlooked by science fiction and by the public while many suggest is humanity's best chance for a colony world. While I have my doubts an independent Quebec would be the nation to settle it, I do think that Künsken makes an excellent exploration of the possibilities that Venus presents. 
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This one was out there, but so much fun! I hope to see the sequel sometime in 2021 and not in 2022. If so, it’s worth the wait!
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I have to admit that this was a struggle to read at times. The habitats of the people choosing to live on Venus and the lives they lead are fascinating, but the personal relationships and drama that come along with it took away from story and felt like fluff. 
The science and explanations, as well as the mysteries discovered on the planet were the only reasons I finished this book. I don't even know if the ending was actually the ending, or if the author plans to continue writing more. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone due to how much interpersonal narration that is that was boring and felt canned.
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I was surprised to read in other reviews that readers had issues picturing the setting of House of Styx, because for me that was the part that first drew me into this book; then again, I've always had a love for planet colonies as settings, and especially on hostile worlds. Boy did this ever deliver!

The central part of the novel is part heist, part exploration tale, and it pulls together our characters as they fight for their discovery. There's a lot of information here, too - it's almost too much at points, but readers with the patience for detail will absolutely find that patience paying off. I won't spoil anything, but although there's a resolution, there's absolutely room for a sequel as well. 

A strong start to a potential series, one I'll definitely be back for.
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Pascale and his family live in the atmosphere of Venus.  Venus is a harsh planet and the people who live there live in constant dread of her sulfuric atmosphere and storms taking their loved ones.  This story has a family that has dealt with the death of their mom, a child with Down's Syndrome, a son that is confused about his gender identity , a sister who has been sent to deal with the government assembly of Venus, and a father that has seen the wrath of Venus.  With all of this going on this story is filled with the descriptions of Venus's sulfuric poisonous atmosphere and the many electrical storms that make Venus's atmosphere the most demanding in our Solar System.  A good sci-fi story that explains the way life would have to take place on the second planet from our Sun.  I only wish that there was given a reason why people chose to leave Earth to go to live in an atmosphere of a planet in which living on land is not an option.  Other than this I enjoyed this book with its new twist of living on a planet choice other than Mars.
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The House of Styx is my first introduction to Derek Künsken, and it certainly won’t be the last time I read him.

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 took my breath away. I felt I was there with Pascal and the other D’Aquillion’s, and the Québécois colonists, as they worked in their beautiful - deadly - home, soaring through the cloud-filled atmosphere.

Künsken’s take on planetary colonization is the essence of adventure, where humanity pits itself against nature with ingenuity and science every second of every day. In fact, it felt so real that I could really believe this type of thing might not be far away (unlike interstellar space travel and technology that feels like magic).

But most of all, the thing that makes this novel shine are the characters. The loss the D’Aquillion’s have experienced in their time on Venus is tangible as the ruthless environment they work to tame. The dynamics of family play out against the greater dynamics of the colony’s politics as resources are not infinite, and every day is a struggle to survive. 

Künsken does a brilliant job weaving a hard SF in amongst the perils of survival on a world hostile to human life, and the fragile personal politics of humans and corporate interests.

I teared up many times reading this story, and Künsken leaves you on a massive cliff-hanger, I was so shocked when I read ‘The End’ I had to go back to check that this was book 1. 

I highly recommend this to fans of Hard SF, and I cannot wait to see what happen as the secret the D’Aquillion’s have found is explored further.
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So when I got approved to review this book I was super stoked! I love the scifi /post apocalyptic vibes this book has to offer. The world building was excellent and the story captures you from the first page! The character growth and development was easy to follow.  I read this book in one day I couldn't put it down.
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Full Review to be posted on Good reads.
What i liked:
The world and the scifi parts were great to read about. Reminded me of why I enjoyed Dune, where the world itself seems like a character in the story. If you like that, you would probably like this book.
Most of the actiony scenes on themselves because of the context were also great to read through.
The MC and its family Relations were fairly interesting while not revolutionary. But enough to keep me interested.

What i didnt really like:
The pacing felt off often a little fast then slowing down to the slowest form possible. The Middle for me, dragged a lot and If i hadnt to finish the book for the Review, i probably would have given up around the middle pages.
Because i liked the first character to be introduced Pascal and his family, i didnt really care for the other povs in the story and the side characters which also made it hard for me to finish. 

In the end, an ok read that i feel readers of Dune and similar scifi would enjoy.
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Key to understanding this wonderful SF novel by Derek Künsken is the dedication at the beginning to his Québécois relatives, and the remark that “The exploration of Venus by bigger nations had never amounted to much more than seeing Venus as a dead end on the road to colonising the solar system.”

Künsken notes wryly that “The decision of la colonie to separate from Québec had come a bit suddenly for everyone, including the séparatistes. A scorned Québec had been happy to cut its losses on the expensive colonie.”

This sets the background for a shaggy dog story of the colony’s hand-to-mouth survival in the harsh and unforgiving Venusian environment, where “No one had loved the love goddess, and Venus had no soul because no one loved her. And les colonistes had no souls because they had no world.”

However, the infrastructure and essential commodities for such a colony to survive are owned, mined and produced by a financial superstructure comprised of various banks, with the colonists being the petite bourgeoisie. You can see how Künsken transmutes the elements of colonialism into his SF setting, but he is way too savvy a writer for this to become pedagogical.

Apart from the theme of Venus being the runt of the solar system in genre terms (it does play a key role in the first couple of Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey), Künsken also deconstructs the very concept of colonisation itself, which often has a Western or Imperialist slant, especially in American SF:

Farming in the heights or scavenging in the depths, choices no different from the ones facing the teeming, nameless billions who’d scraped the ground for most of Earth’s history, never walking more than thirty kilometres from where they’d been born. His parents had crossed hard vacuum to reach a world where most of them would be subsistence farmers.

And what a world it is. Künsken’s evocation of the Venusian ecosystem and how to survive there reads like a lavish and riveting David Attenborough nature documentary. Although he has clearly done his homework, the nuts and bolts of the actual science are cleverly hidden in the background of the story.

The reader is mesmerised by the sheer fight for survival of the D’Aquillon family as it painstakingly harvests water and oxygen in the depths of Venus’s atmosphere, living in huge dirigible-like craft, and also harvesting precious metals from volcanic ash in the lowest levels … where the family has a date with destiny as it makes a truly astonishing discovery (definite hints of Arthur C. Clarke here.)

Above all of this riffraff (but still quite a way from the level of the banks) are the habitats of the political elite in the upper Venusian atmosphere, who rule and scheme among the families in order to subjugate and control them.

What made me love this book so much, apart from the impeccable world-building and Künsken’s sheer technical chops as a writer, are the wonderful characters, whose lives and loves and struggles make them achingly and so frustratingly human. Here in particular I am thinking of the teenage Pascal and the fraught journey of self-discovery he makes (to say any more would be to spoil this treasure chest of a novel.)

They all tested themselves against Venus, each according to their gifts, all in the process of becoming something else, something better. They might die. They each had lost loved ones to the clouds. And although Venus would resist them, although Venus herself did not know she was beautiful, they would show her.
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I've read other books by this author, and liked them. He's got a good imagination and writes well. This book has interesting characters and the setting is unique, and of course the plot is important, and after a slow start it was enjoyable. I'm not a fan of incomplete endings, but otherwise it was a good read.

Thanks very much for the ARC for review!!
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This book was a slow but steady read for me. It was really good, but for some reason it took me a long time to finish it.

The author did a wonderful job of bringing so many different characters to life in this book. I think that was why I had such a hard time reading the book. I have a hard time with character-driven stories. This book, however, was so good. I don't regret a minute I spent reading it.

I do hope the author gives us a sequel, because the book didn't give as much closure as I would have hoped. The book builds up to this huge climax, and I was honestly a little disappointed. I loved each of the characters, and I found myself rooting for all of them to get what they wanted. My favorite characters were Pascal, a young man who doesn't fit in his body, Marthe, the voice of the family with the Colonie, and Jean-Eudes, the autistic brother whose birth sparked the D'Aquillon family's rift with the government. These were amazing people, and the author wrote them with such feeling.

I could only give this book 4 stars. The book was really good, but it took me a while to finish it, and I was confused about the closure I never received. I enjoy character-driven books, but I have to be in a specific mood. It all boils down to the lack of closure in the book. I really hope the author writes a sequel, and continues the story. These characters were really great, and I'd love to see them in other books.

I recommend this book, but please don't feel discouraged if, like me, this book takes you a bit to get into. Anyone who loves character-driven stories would enjoy this book. I found myself invested in what happened to this family, and loved each and every one of them.
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Thank you very much to Solaris and NetGalley for providing me with this advance copy of »The House of Styx« by Derek Künsken.

It was the short description of the novel that got me interested, apart from being a huge science fiction fan. Still, I didn‘t know Derek Künkens at that time, but short summary got me hooked at once. Fortunately, I have not been disappointed.

Set in the solar system, or to be more specific on the planet Venus and its turbulent atmosphere, the story revolves around Acadian colonies that live in artificial habitats floating above the clouds in a hostile environment. Making a living is dangerous, and fatal accidents are common. Those who were born on Venus don‘t know life on Earth or even solid grounds. Self-destructive behavior like drugs is widely spread among the younger generation, some even worship the deadly planet like a goddess and burn themselves in the acidic atmosphere to honor it. Most People have to struggle hard and are under the thumb of the large banks controlling finances and goods. But there are also a smaller group of family based rebels living on lower levels in trawlers among the stormy clouds. When Pascal, a young engineer and transgender girl in the body of a boy, discovers a strange object on the surface of Venus, this finding might alter the fate of the D'Aquillon family. It‘s their one chance to strike a fortune, but they will have to risk everything to harvest it.

I loved the world building and character studies of this novel. It may not exactly be hard science fiction, but the description of Venus and its climate are accurate and convincing enough to make the story believable, as long as you accept the invented technology. But that‘s what reading fantastic literature is all about, isn‘t it? The way Derek Künskens describes the may aspects of his creation – ranging from individual fates to politics – is utterly fascinating. Maybe some of the backstories he tells are a little to elaborated. However, this is supposed to be the first installment of a new series, so there‘s groundwork to be done. All in all, the book tells an exciting adventure, making it a page turner despite the fact that there is more exploration involved than action. Although there‘s a certain cliffhanger at the end, the story seems more or less self-contained.

I definitely recommend this book.
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Derek Kunsken is a master world builder, as evidenced in The House of Styx.  For those who like solidly built sci-fi this is a book that will delight, with detailed descriptions that may deter the casual fan.  However, for those that do choose to read, a cast of well drawn characters will draw them into the well paced novel.  I hope this is the start of a new long running series!
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This was first book by this author, so I had no idea what to expect, but the blurb sounded interesting so I decided to go with it.

This is very intricate story with filled with a lot of detail and amazing worldbuilding. The book is able to make the harsh environment of Venus and the battle to survive come alive. It is a story about family, secrets, angst and drama.

It is not a book you can just read in between. It takes time to get into the book and you need to keep your focus.
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I loved the vast and intricate world building for this novel, I found it hard to become really invested in the characters and plot. Although the detail and scientific descriptions can add a lot of information about the world, it made the reading experience feel very overwhelming and at times made the story drag. The characters themselves also needed a lot more fleshing out. These feel like the ideas of characters that haven't been fully realised yet. None of them felt three-dimensional and there definitely isn't a character in this novel that really connected with me as they were all quite forgettable.
The scattered French within the novel also felt very out of place and forced. I enjoy having languages in novels but the way this was incorporated didn't feel authentic. 
Overall I think this is a great starting point for a book, the world is definitely one to be explored. What needs the work though is the plot and characters. Both need to be a lot more alive so that readers can really connect to this story.
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Welcome to this book review,
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review. 
This book was a surprise, while it took me about a dozen pages or so to get into it once I was into it, I only wanted to know more about it. The world was captivating and the story was really well thought out. 
It touches so many subjects, like family, gender identity, love, politics and will make you cry. 
I loved that it happened on Venus or well on it's cloud , it was a really original and beautifully writen book, a great start to a new series. As a Québécoise it was really lovely to be represented in a futuristic world. 
I can't wait to read where the next book will take us into this world.  
I only wanted more resolution for some conflit, plot line points, I felt like a little resolution could've pushed it to be even better as this was a first book and had to keep us hooked on it. Overall great book that is totally worth the read. 
4/5 stars
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