Before reading The House of Styx, I'd not long finished reading The Quantum Magician and so upon seeing that Derek Künsken had another book released after that, I needed to read it without bothering to even read the synopsis. After quite a few chapters, I found myself wondering whether this was related to The Quantum Magician so finally got around to quickly reading a bit more on the book to see that it is indeed - a new series set 250 years before The Quantum Magician. My interest rose even more!
The whole book takes place in the swirling clouds of Venus, where the families of la colonie live on floating plant-like trawlers, salvaging what they can in the fierce acid rain and crackling storms. Life is dangerous, with Venus raining acid and everything you do is just to survive. How dangerous life is in the atmosphere of Venus seems to be one of the key parts of the book with the dangers repeated throughout. Life is fragile and people spend their days simply trying to survive.
One family though discovers that Venus carries its own secrets, as in the depths there is a wind that shouldn’t exist. To harness it, a new family must be formed from three houses coming together - the House of Styx.
The character building that Künsken gets into the pages is something else. You become engrossed in them, caring for them and understanding their problems and boy do they have problems. Live on Venus is hard, being in a family in that kind of environment is hard. The father of the D’Aquillon family who refuses to give up on the birth of his first son just because he has Downs Syndrome, despite calls that he'd be a burden on already scarce resources. A son who resents his father for making their lives harder because of his decision to keep his first son, despite his love for his brother. Another son who can't figure out who he is only to discover it with some help from his sister. Deaths in the family, anger, confusion, tears, love. It's all experienced whilst maintaining just how difficult life in the atmosphere of Venus is.
You spend half your time wondering how deep Emile's hatred of his dad goes and whether he'd betray the family that he no longer feels a part of and the other half wondering what can and will go wrong with the families plan to set up on the surface of Venus away from the banks that own everything and everyone, without anyone noticing what they're doing.
In books like this, it's always nice when the details aren't weighed down by technical language. Instead, Künsken’s descriptions of chemistry, physics and technology are used to illustrate the hardships and danger of their lives without making you think too hard about it. We're not living in the atmosphere's of Venus, no one is right now. We've not even sent people to Mars. So you can't get too detailed because it's an unknown and most people probably wouldn't understand some of it anyway. The level of detail used is perfect, it's just enough to keep plausible and understandable.
As an ebook, it has the same problem as any ebook that has an appendix at the back. There are a lot of words that are Quebecois French, and whilst you can guess at some of the words, others not so much. There was a sentence about two-thirds of the way in that I have no idea what was said and by the time I finished and read the appendix, I couldn't remember what that sentence was. When you have a physical book in your hands, it's easy to jump back and forth, which I don't like doing on a Kindle. Thankfully, a lot of the words are pretty simple to guess their meaning thanks to how they're said (like swear words).
Fans of The Quantum Magician might find this book a bit harder to read as everything is a lot more downbeat. It's a harsh environment and you're reminded of that constantly, with characters worries and their actions as they constantly have to look after maintaining their equipment. It's this constant reminder of how they live their lives that make this book stand out. You're constantly told their lives are in danger because it is. I suppose the real question to come out of this book is why Venus?
I can't wait to see what comes next!