Cover Image: The House of Styx

The House of Styx

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An excellent read. Full of Venusian facts all backed up with a plausible and well written story. A tale of one family's life and hardships living and working on Venus. Politics, drama and adventure all come into play and the book keeps you locked within it's pages shortly after first picking it up.

Highly recommended to all sci-fi fans especially fans of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy.

Really great work and i'm really looking forward to where the story takes us in the next instalment.

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Huge thank you to Netgalley for an advanced reader copy of this book. All opinions and views in this review are my own.

So being a huge mythology fan, the first thing that drew me to this book was the title. But once I read the description, I desperately wanted to get my hands on the book. A story set on planet Venus? Yes, please! The only other time I've ever read a book set on Venus was by C.S. Lewis.

This book had some major pros.
I loved the setting. And holy cow, did the author think out every aspect of the world building well. In the first handful of chapters, the reader is going to have a hard time following the setting and details, but as time goes on and the science behind their homes, travel methods, and means of survival are explained, it feels markedly organic and plausible. One of the best setting developments I've read in a long, long time.
Also, I loved the dynamic of Jean-Eudes' diagnosis (Down Syndrome) and his father's adamant choice to protect his son and give him life.
Lastly, the author did a good job of giving each character their own voice. I didn't have to remind myself which character POV I was reading.

Unfortunately, by the time I was done with the book, there was very little I was latching onto. The setting only carried the novel so far and by that point, the storyline felt flat.
Side-note, this is a very small critique, but initially the French dialog doesn't feel organic to the conversational flow. For the first half of the book or more, this pulled me right out of the story every time it was dropped in. I either got used to it, or the author got better at melding it in naturally. For example, one of the main characters would rattle off a French phrase and finish with "pa." I kept thinking, repeatedly, that it would feel more natural for him to say "papa" if their native language was French. And then he And then went back to "pa." Super minor, but it slowed my reading flow over and over.

My bigger issue with the book was the fact that it was a soap opera. <i>Downton Abbey</i> has a huge following and the characters each have a distinctive voice. One of the reasons it wasn't immediately recognized as a soap was the period it was set in. But at the end of the day, it's a soap opera set in an abbey. <i>House of Styx</i> is a soap opera full of angsty characters. Especially Pascal. His POV was next to unbearable for me to get through and, frankly, felt like a poor substitute for a YA novel. If you pick up the book, don't go into it looking for a sci-fi novel. I think the majority of readers will be heavily disappointed if they enter it with that mindset. Action and classic sci-fi, this is not. If you're into family drama and soap operas, like <i>Downton Abbey</i>, the setting will probably go a long way to engage readers who enjoy that genre.

This is just a plug for readers trying to decide if this is a book to spend your time on, the heavy liberal views by the author are pretty preachy. Just one example, Pascal's character tells his brother that saints are like fairies, a magical, imaginary belief system fools used to cling to. This may not bother some readers at all, so all speed ahead. But be forewarned that if this bothers you, this wouldn't be a book you would want to spend your time on.

Some mild grammatical errors I'm sure will be fixed before this goes to print.

Two stars for the well-fleshed out setting, but unfortunately, the rest of it fell flat for me.

I'd rate this book an R for strong swearing, sex scenes, drugs and self-harm, and some violence.

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On Venus there are colonies in the future claimed by the French Canadian. They call themselves colonistes. However it’s not the most ideal place to raise a family and have children.

Since it’s a class based society and the rich have higher opinions then the poor and better living styles and jobs. It seems oblivious to the plights of each other.

Also because of some choices that are made whole families need to suffer because of the opinion of one. Revenge is prominent lies, coverup and bribes too.
Not all voices are equal especially for the D’Aquillion family.

Arc was provided by netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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This book was really really interesting. I loved the fact that it was set in the atmosphere of Venus. The housing units which were weird plant and plastic hybrid habitats was an incredible idea. I also really enjoyed the element of metal and building materials being extremely valuable followed with food and other supplies. The fact that it was Quebec that first takes over Venus and claims it because none of the super powers of Earth wanted it was also interesting.
All of the characters were very well rounded and well thought out. They were each unique even while keeping the same family ideals about them so that you could see what was nature and what was nurture. It was a really fascinating look into how family units in stories could be built and not one that I see often illustrated like this. My one pet peeve was all the french words thrown in. Once you're pretty far into the novel you can discern most of them but I was still having to look up a lot of words which broke immersion for me.
Over all I think this is a really great scifi and I would not mind reading it again to revisit the rich world of far future Venus and her colonists.

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Thanks to NetGalley and publishers for providing me a digital ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Unfortunately, I don't think this book was for me. i don't read much science fiction in general but sometimes, if I like a premise, I will dabble in a sci-fi book. This time, it didn't end well.

There wasn't anything bad about this book, per se, I just didn't feel connected to the characters in the way I wanted to be and I felt that the pace was too fast and it was a bit difficult to follow along.

I don't believe it was any fault of the author, Derek Kunsken's writing was always clear and had a certain poetry to it that I rather liked. The actual story itself was also really interesting and unique from anything I've ever read before.

I think If I read this again, maybe with a different mindset, I might enjoy it much more.

Overall, I give this book 3/5 stars and would recommend it to people who like sci-fi and are used to reading sci-fi books.

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I was able to read this thanks to a NetGalley ARC and, initially, I couldn’t say it was a book for me. I simply couldn’t quite get into it and the first few chapters felt a lot like an info dump at points. The text can be heavy with description which, for many readers can be incredibly helpful, I personally found the style to drag in the opening chapters.

However, I can honestly say that I was wrong and this ended up being a truly enjoyable read with Pascal(e) being an incredibly protagonist who really was a joy to read. While the writing style is a credit in itself, it’s the characters who are the saving grace for this story.

There are some hard hitting storylines which merge well with the Sci-Fi genre and makes the genre more approachable for those who are not usually comfortable with it. The ending left more than a few questions and, while that is most likely due to the fact that there will be a sequel, it felt a little underwhelming compared to the bulk of the story. I am likely to read the sequel, however, in the hopes that my questions are answered.

Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read this.

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There was a lot of description of machinery and technicality that I didn't think was so interesting. And then I was a little confused about oxygen being important yet people are smoking cigarettes. I was interested in the space found in the chasm but that part seemed to progress rather slow. Also, I don't really know french and am not inclined to look up translations of each phrase.

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4.5 Stars

Omg!! I didn’t know this book was going to make me cry!!

When I saw this book was a sci-fi book set around Venus I was hooked. This book was so much more than a space romp. This book is about family, politics, gender identity, corruption, mental health, drugs, love....... the Stars.

I loved all of the characters! Marthe ended up being my favorite!

And Venus, beautiful, deadly Venus. No one can live on you but they can live in your clouds and if they’re important, they can live a bit above your clouds.

Venus holds secrets that one awesome family discovers! But what will all of this lead to, how many will survive and die to find out the answers...

I’m excited for this new series and I can’t wait to have the physical copy in my hands!! The following excerpt isn’t set in stone as this is an advanced copy.

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.

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾

** Thank you to Netgalley and Solaris Books for a digital copy of this book!

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The only problem with advance copies is not only do I have to wait for the book to come out so I can buy it, but then I have to wait even more for a (hopefully) sequel!! Excellent hard sci fi; I don't know enough about Venus to know if everything portrayed is possible, but it was presented so consistently and detailed that I believe it. Bits reminded me of the best of Heinlein and Peter F. Hamilton, with touches of early Dune. I loved the family despite their stubbornness, or maybe because of it! I can't wait to have this on my bookshelf.

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Although the premise of this novel is intriguing and different, its execution fails to live up to expectations. On the surface, this novel explores life on Venus where French Canadians have built colonies amongst the clouds. The colonists work to harvest oxygen and other raw materials from floating plants while enduring their own personal hardships. Focusing on one family, the story traces their survival in a harsh environment with even more complicated politics looming in the background. It is at once a novel of survival and family, while also showcasing a world that reminds me of the American Western Frontier. It feels a little bit like "Little House on the Prairie," but in space, and there's sulphuric acid rain.

If you are one for detail and explanation, then this is the novel for you as Künsken's writing is full of lengthy descriptions and poignant vignettes that capture daily life on Venus. There are even a few interesting and creative solutions to the inherent problems that living on Venus presents, and if you enjoy this part of science-fiction world-building, you'll enjoy this novel.

In my mind, however, the novel suffers from its own desire to world-build. Like the story's inhabitants, it remains in the fluffy clouds, never grounding into an interesting narrative. Even the first few pages are overwhelming, word-vomiting all this detail without giving readers anything to hook on. I actually had to reread the first few pages because I didn't understand the use of trawler (or a fishing-boat) with the over-fraught description of the floating plants. As when any writer over-explains, the reader begins to question the details--which is exactly what happened. I was taken out of my suspension of disbelief to then begin questioning the minutiae. Like, how do they have ropes in a world of sulphuric acid?

It feels almost like a rookie novel. Characters are flat and one-dimensional, each chapter barely scrapes into the next, and whatever plot there is isn't tied up by its finale (meaning another book is on its way). There's also an overwhelming use of awkward French. The novel makes it clear from the beginning that the characters are speaking in French (as if the text has been translated), but then has some characters explicitly speak French sometimes, but not others. And what words are in French are fairly simple to translate, like "oui," "maman," or "non." As the words are in italics, it is also frustrating to constantly be bombarded by simple French words that stand-out and it feels almost patronising to readers. It made me, as a reader, question the "translation" of the text. It would have been far more interesting if the difficult words were in French, or if they were phrases/idioms that do not have an English equivalent. They writing felt like some of my high school students' where they over-use dialects, accents, or foreign words because they do not trust in their own readers' ability to remember.

I think this novel had a lot of potential in its premise, but it gets lost in all its detail and description. It just forgets its story and characters along the way.

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A huge thank you to Solaris, Derek Kunsken and Netgalley.
Anyone who reads my reviews knows that I do not like science fiction! But, when I came across this author on Netgalley I knew I had to read it! It's always a crap shoot, but I was hoping the sci-fi gods were smiling. Yeah. They were! This was so good. I will confess that Venus is no place for me! Matter of fact, I was so able to put myself in these characters shoes, and thus I spent quite a bit of time just loving planet earth.
Really, up until the first 25% I thought I would quit this book. Then everything started coming together. I was at times nervous as heck! Other times, my heart was so full of feelings. Flying through acid storms? Scary and exhilarating!
Best of all was the people. Not the bank or government, but these families. I can't tell you how many times I had to wipe tears off my face. Too many!
If you are someone who is close minded then do us all a favor and read this book. It may open your heart. Just a wee bit!
If you need a review, then it won't be from me. Read others. There's some great ones on Goodreads. I'm just here to tell you how much I loved this.
I am anxiously awaiting the next book.

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House of Styx was a tremendous and beautiful surprise of a science fiction novel. The Cover art and description don’t prepare you for the emotional journey you’re about to embark on. Derek kunsken brings Venus to life and transports you there completely. the scientific detail is beyond words. The delicious and delightful technobabble were a nerdy joy. The political machinations and intrigue helped to add another tension and frustration filled layer and the deeper mystery of white lies below Venus leaves you guessing and longing for answers.
That being said, what separates it from the unending ocean of Science fiction novels out there is the unexpected and incredible family drama that lies at the center of it. An astonishing story of love, betrayal, loss, grief, self discovery, and exploration of what family means. He explores the bonds of family, what happens to all involved when those bonds are stressed or broken, the struggle of and the love for those who are born differently abled. He captivatingly captures a teenager discovering they may not be who the world thinks they are. He addresses LGBT issues with a power that as a gay man overwhelmed me with emotion. It’s the engrossing, honest, and exceptional creation of the D’Aquillon family that is the heart and soul of this Science fiction novel and it’s what will keep readers wanting and begging for more. 5 stars.

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The House of Styx follows the lives of a French Canadian colonist family, the D’Aquillons, on the planet Venus. The reader is also shown various other stakeholders who inhabit the planet, along with the political, and social structure. To me, the most fascinating piece besides the D’Aquillon family is a Venus loving cult made up of artists and poets led by a mentally unstable Therese, who Émile D’Aquillon is in love with. On a planet that needs “all hands on deck,” artistic expression is not seen as a useful skill, so they are experimenting with ways to create a belonging connection to the planet. I could certainly see how this could come about while living in a small colony among the clouds in a menacing atmosphere.

I would characterize House of Styx for readers as more of a social family drama with heavy science than a stereotypical science fiction action novel. While there are very intricate and detailed science elements in this book, the diverse character’s living on this unforgiving planet really make the story. The D’Aquillon’s primary decision in choosing not to abort their oldest child with Down syndrome, Jean-Eudes, and to subsequently live in the harsher lower levels due to this, is a decision that leads to the loss of some of the family’s members. It shapes the D’Aquillon children and their actions as adults. I feel that the family dynamic is realistic, and the diversity of personalities is well done.
I did have trouble with the intricate science descriptions, and details of what the characters were doing during those scenes. I almost DNF at one point, but trudged along anyway. I will say, that the author did a lot of work, and those with an interest in engineering would certainly appreciate the effort.

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My thanks go to Rebellion Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with the eBook version of this novel in return for an honest review.

The richness and quality in world-building in this science-fiction novel makes the setting, cultures and characters featured in The House of Styx very strong for the genre, and would be a strong start to a potential series.

The most noticeable quality about The House of Styx is the incredibly detailed descriptions throughout. Author Derek Künsken has communicated with experts from various scientific fields and the end result is a knowledge base that goes above and beyond any other science-fiction book I have read. Every action a character undertakes, every scientific tool they use, every paragraph about the clouds and surface of Venus, are fleshed out with detailed jargon. Whether this will be appreciated ultimately depends on the preference of the reader. For readers like myself, who love detailed descriptions, this book will be seen as such a vast and fleshed out world created under the pen of the author, the likes of which are rarely undertaken. If a casual reader picks this up though, this could blunt their enjoyment of the novel as the description at times threatens to slow down the pacing of the central narrative. This book has been read during the lockdown of the United Kingdom down to COVID-19, which has impacted on how often I read. As a result, some descriptions were hard to break down and get through, but in general I greatly appreciated how it provided such a clear mental image about the harsh Venusian environment and how the lives of the settlers struggling to survive are impacted by it.

The narrative as a whole has some great moments but doesn’t always feel focused. The emphasis is largely on the D’Aquillons, a family of settlers originating from Canada. They are largely independent from the Banks and Federations that govern life on Venus as the result of a highly personal disagreement. Scouting the surface of Venus for potential minerals that they can sell, they discover an impossible wind going into a cave, and what they discover could completely change both their fortunes and Mankind’s scientific knowledge base. The build-up to and the revelation of the discovery was paced and written very well – yet the final third of the novel does not go in the direction that I was expecting. Instead of further exploring this unbelievable discovery, the family and some acquaintances come up with a plan to completely go off the grid from those governing society. It certainly still provides some exciting moments, including one sequence that is the most intense of the novel, but almost certainly hints that this is the first in a book series that continues to follow the D’Aquillons, the House of Styx and the rest of Venusian society.

At certain points, the central narrative takes a back seat, as the author introduces various strands of Venusian society in a way that instantly creates intrigue. The most impactful of these introductions is on those who have a spiritual interest in Venus itself, treating the planet’s toxic atmosphere as a deity trying to reach out to them. This cult-like following is made up of artists, individuals who will stylishly let Venus make its mark on them, only to ultimately suffer for their devotion. I found this a brilliant side-plot away from the majority of the D’Aquillons and certainly added to the richness of the world created by the detailed descriptions. Readers briefly are introduced to the Bank of Pallas as well as allusions to the other Banks who control Venusian society. They act as antagonists of the novel in their desire to break down and retrieve the vast majority of minerals on Venus for their profits, yet there is light and shade in the portrayal of senior members of the Banks, which makes for a much more realistic and fleshed-out characterisation, as opposed to the standard villainous overseer type.

The characterisation of the D’Aquillons and allies who combine to become the House of Styx, are solidly written. A couple of these are brilliantly done, and really stand out when the individuals in question are narrating the chapters. The development of Pascal(e) throughout the novel is very powerful and I have to commend the author for tackling the themes of their story; the like of which is rarely done, let alone to this quality, in the science-fiction genre. Émile D’Aquillon has the most harrowing arc and chapters that follow his traumas are utterly engrossing; I will go as far to say that he is the best written character in a book with many solid ones. The majority of the other characters are written quite well, but it doesn’t feel that I know who they are as well as with Pascale and Émile; a potential sequel could really flesh the other characters out. As a whole though, the characterisation is on point and varied enough to make the majority of them stand out as individuals.

The House of Styx has a quality in its writing style, particularly in descriptive sections, that go far and above the standard for the science-fiction genre. Occasionally this does disrupt the pacing and the prominence of the narrative, but the richness of the world that the author has created in a few hundred pages means that any sequel produced will be snatched up by readers, myself included.

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The House of Styx primarily follows the lives of a French Canadian colony of settlers on the planet Venus. Between the colony’s poor financial status and struggling to survive in the harsh atmosphere, life is a constant struggle for Venusian citizens. Readers mainly follow the D’Aquillons family as they discover secrets beneath the planet’s surface that could change their lives, as well as the course of history.

Initially I was very intrigued by the cast of characters, even more so than the plot. Pascal, who I viewed to be the main character, is facing gender identity questions, Marthe (Pascal’s sister) is LGBTQ, and Jean-Eudes (Pascal’s brother) has down syndrome. I thought it was really cool to read a book that features diverse characters like this, without having their sexuality or disability be the major point of the story. I’ve found very little sci-fi that does something similar.

Overall, my biggest complaint was the the detail. I realize this is a sci-fi book, but there was too much emphasis on the “sci”. For example, when Pascal first sent the probe down to Venus’s surface, I almost gave up on the book. Every minute detail, pressure reading, and description of the technology was included. If you’re like me and not extremely fascinated by the minutia of science, it gets pretty boring. I would’ve liked more of a broad and easy to understand description of the tech, with a bigger focus on the characters than machinery. For someone who finds technology/space instruments fascinating, this book probably would have been excellent. As someone who was promised “action-packed,” I was disappointed.

I also found some of the descriptive details to be confusing. I could never quite orient myself in the scene and felt like conflicting language was used to describe the surroundings, or the positions of the characters in their environment. I had to reread these detail oriented scenes over and over, which made the 500 pages seem even longer.

I still feel like I need to go back and re-read things, so my review may be updated soon but for now I would give this a 3/5. Would strongly recommend for space lovers and those interested in the finer points of space technology, or people who that doesn’t bother and are interested in diverse characters with a sci-fi backdrop.

Side note: make sure you download a French-English dictionary as there are sprinklings of French words throughout.

I received this ARC compliments of NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My review will be posted to Goodreads within a week of the publication date.

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Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for this arc. Unfortunately, I DNF’d at 25%. The aesthetic that was painted was cool. I have no clue what the plot is. I prefer action or purpose in stories, yet this one felt like it was just drifting around. I wasn’t sure what was supposed to be happening. The inclusivity of this book is amazing.!! If you love sci-fi and don’t mind floating along with the story, I’d recommend you try this. It has too many good qualities to write off completely if it’s a type of book you like.

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Intense, immersive hard sci-fi with believable, relatable characters and a gripping plot. I'd have liked a few more threads tied off at the end but I'm already looking forward to the next book. Especially enjoyed the trials attendant in living within Venus' atmosphere!

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Thank you NetGalley for giving me an ARC copy of this book.

4,5 stars rounded up.

Well, this novel wasn't exactly what I expected. I thought it'd be some hard science-ficiton with a lot of action. There is a lot of science elements, but it isn't some fast-paced book with battles and aliens. It is more exploration about a new inhabitat of humans wchich is Venus. Yes, people colonized the planet but it is still a mystery for them.

But the main focus are characters. This book is a really great character study, with three main voices and some side characters worth looking into.

There is Pascal - a girl in the body of a boy who struggles with her identity.

There is Martha - the one who wants to merge her family together and probably the real hero of the story.

There is Emile - man of the edge of addiction who doesn't know what to do with his life and wants to find a purpose.

The are also others member of The D'Aquillon family whose rebellion started when mother and father refused to abort a child with the down syndrome.

There is a lot about family in this novel, also a lot about tolerance and acceptance. There are hard decisions and choices that can lead to grave consequences.

Characters are what keeps this story going. Pascale and Marthe were my faovurites, but I liked others, too.
I have a one little issue about the ending. Not of what had happened, but of the way it was portrayed. I had a felling that author wanted to make the final gut punch a little harder, but getting to the final conclusion took too long and it lessened the impact. I can't say more without spoilering the plot.

Still, it is a great read, not only for fans of science-fiction, but also for those, who are looking for great characterization.

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The portrayal of life on Venus is gorgeous, a place that is somehow both high among the clouds and deep beneath the oceans. I'm not quite sure I buy the idea that Venus would be colonised by Quebec, of all places, but it makes for an unusual cast of characters. Unfortunately I found the lack of resolution, clearly setting up for a sequel, a bit of a disappointment. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC

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At first, I wasn’t sure about this book. I had a hard time picturing the homes and the challenges of living on Venus. However, it was a really good book once I got into it. I really liked Pascale’s story too; that was something I didn’t expect. There is also quite a lot of time spent with the characters interacting with day to day activities, something that helps the reader really learn more about them. I wish some more of the plot lines would have been resolved, but I guess that just means I have to go read book 2.

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