Today I reviewing ‘The House of Styx’ by Derek Künsken which will be available in ebook format from tomorrow! Continuing with my search to expand my Sci-Fi reading this was another fantastic book, that I would highly recommend and I hope that you will check out both the author and book!
*Disclaimer – I received an e-arc via netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
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.
The House of Styx is the first book I’ve read by Derek Künsken, but it certainly won’t be the last, as this was one of those books that seized hold of my imagination and heart and didn’t let go. I was fascinated by the premise from the get-go, especially ‘life, can exist anywhere. And anywhere there is life, there is home,’ which for me, immediately humanised this story. Because that is one of the things, I loved about this book, that while it is undoubtedly ‘hard Sci-fi’, it is far more than that. As it doesn’t focus on spaceships or journeys across galaxies, but is rather a more detailed exploration of life and survival on a single planet, and of the lives of those who have carved out an existence there. It is about colonisation and family, identity and belonging, survival and life.
The House of Styx is beautifully detailed, while treading the careful balance between the science and the narrative, without losing the latter amongst the technical language. Instead, Künsken uses detailed research and technical language to create a world that feels fantastically real while using it to enrich the story he has brought to life. I thoroughly enjoyed the depth of the descriptions, and the jargon, as I love that level of detail and realism in my Sci-fi, although it may not be too everyone’s taste. However, I found that it made the worldbuilding reach a whole other level and created a vivid image of the harsh environment on Venus, and the ingenious ways that the settlers were finding to survive. One of the most fascinating aspects about this book for me was that it wasn’t set within some far-flung galaxy but our own. And on the more unusual setting of Venus, which I don’t think I have encountered before, and that on top of this worldbuilding made House of Styx a stand out read for me.
I will say that at times I found that the narrative seemed to lose focus, but for the most part, it was well-paced, and deliciously layered not just with detailed descriptions, but intrigue and tension that built throughout the narrative. I was not prepared for where the book went towards the end, but although a little surprised, I felt that it worked well and lay a strong foundation for the rest of the series.
The characters do not lose out to the richness of the worldbuilding. I felt that all of them were strongly written in their own way, each adding fascinating threads to the narrative although there are places where it feels as though we have not been given a chance to get to know them as well as some of the more major characters. However, considering this is the first in a series, there is room for that to change, and even as they stand, these characters are interesting. There were a few that stood out even beyond this, and in particular, I found Pascal’s character and plotline to be one of the most interesting, and powerful in the entire book. However, what truly stood out for me was Künsken’s exploration of characters dealing with lesser represented issues from down syndrome to gender identity, and at a deeply personal level, because regardless of the scale of the world, this was a story about the people.
This was a book that refuses to be bound by its genre, taking the SF elements and making it so much more, and written in such a way that it captures not only your imagination but your heart. I would unreservedly recommend this book to anyone who loves Sci-fi, especially with a leaning towards hard Sci-fi, and to anyone who is looking for something different and wonderfully human within that genre.
The House of Styx (Venus Ascendant #1) – Derek Künsken (Ebook to be released 20th August 2020/ Hardcover to be released 15th April 2021 by Rebellion Publishing/Solaris) – ***** (5/5 Stars)
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.