Review: The House of Styx

The House of Styx
Venus Ascendant #1
By Derek Künsken

Life can exist anywhere. And anywhere there is life, there is home.

In the swirling clouds of Venus, the families of la colonie live on floating plant-like trawlers, salvaging what they can in the fierce acid rain and crackling storms. Outside is dangerous, but humankind’s hold on the planet is fragile and they spend most of their days simply surviving.

But Venus carries its own secrets, too. In the depths, there is a wind that shouldn’t exist.

And the House of Styx wants to harness it.

332 pages
Published by Solaris
Published on August 20, 2020
Author’s webpage
Buy the book.

This book was sent by the publisher via netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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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