Review: The House of Styx By – Derek Künsken

Those of you who follow my blog know how much I loved the Quantum Evolution Series, as I found the universe in which it was set, as original as it was inspiring.

Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered Derek Künsken is currently in the middle of a number of prequels to that work, set 250 years before the events portrayed in The Quantum Magician.

Here’s the blurb to The House of Styx, the very first Venus Ascendant novel.


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

In the swirling clouds of Venus, George-Étienne and his children are one of a few families of la colonie living on floating plant-like trawlers, salvaging what they can in the fierce acid rain and crackling storms. Outside is deadly for the unprepared or unwary, but the planet’s atmosphere is far from the only threat a family can face.

For the surface of Venus carries its own secrets, too. In the depths, there is a wind that shouldn’t exist. For George-Étienne and the House of Styx, harnessing it may be worth risking all.


As fans of The Quantum Evolution series will know, the Vesuvian Congregate was a pivotal player throughout colonized space. A political power, with the punch to influence just about anyone they wanted. Their technology was generations ahead of just about anybody else too. Making them – as I’ve already mentioned – THE force to be reckoned with.

But here, in this story, Venus is the poor man’s version of a rough and ready hick town.

Yes, mankind has managed to settle in the volatile environment of the upper atmosphere of Earth’s nearest neighbor, but life is far from easy. Existence is hard. So hard, that dogmatic routine – of check, check, and check again – is the key to survival. The slightest exposure to Venus’ toxic atmosphere will burn you; the smallest misstep will send you plummeting into the crushing depths of the lower atmosphere; the tiniest inclination to relax your guard will set off a series of catastrophes that, ultimately, gets you killed. It really is that dangerous.

Yet people have not only set up a colony here, they’re doing their best to thrive . . . if owing the Bank of Pallas an ever-extending debt from which you’ll never be free is your idea of thriving. And it’s into this cauldron of fomenting menace that we look in on the D’Aquillon’s, a family who were part of the original settlers who took the chance of making Venus their home.

But as I mentioned, life isn’t easy. The banks are always out to make a profit. They even have a controlling influence on the distribution of medicines and spare parts, vital for survival. And if you don’t toe the line, then you just might discover that Venus becomes your grave. This creates something of a division between the settlers. There are those who do prosper – to a degree – the kowtows and the lackeys, who do exactly what the Bank of Pallas wants. They get the better, more sophisticated habitats higher up in the atmosphere where it’s safer. (And boy, is the politicking rife to ensure it stays that way) After all, what better way to reduce a planet’s population into servitude than by indebting them to your ‘help’ with high interest handouts and weighted legal indemnities that grants you the power of judge, jury and executioner?

Families like the D’Aquillon’s, however, live deeper down, in floating, plantlike homes where thunder and lightning rages, and death is only a stuttering heartbeat away. But what do you expect when your whole economy is based on salvaging what you can from the endless storms that churn Venus’ atmosphere into a frothing rage? A place where thunder and lightning rages, cyclones range, and brain-bursting pressure changes are only a stuttering heartbeat away.

And then the D’Aquillon’s make a remarkable discovery. One that will guarantee a future free from debt and the controlling fist of oppression.

Regardless, if the wrong people find out, then not only will the bank step in and take their discovery from them, but the D’Aquillon’s may very well find themselves arrested on trumped-up charges, or even killed.

Now, what that find is, exactly, you’ll have to uncover for yourself. But you’ll be glad you did, as Künsken’s immersive style will allow you to ‘connect’ with the every-day-in-day-out struggle the D’Aquillon’s must endure to simply eke out a living. And that endurance is what makes them special. Yes, they’re flawed. Their personalities often create as much friction as the storm clouds in which they live. But being downtrodden and ignored and rejected for so many years has made them tough. Self-reliant and determined. Resilient. So much so, that when a golden opportunity comes their way, they have just the right qualities and skills to make a daring plan work.

And I thoroughly enjoyed how Künsken put these aspects across in this story. This isn’t a high-end action adventure where heroes and heroines go out to wage war against unstoppable alien foes. This is a story about the more insidious, very real menace of allowing those who govern you, to dictate every aspect of your life. We delve into what makes people tick. What motivates them. What makes one person stand up and be counted when it matters, while others fold. It’s about loyalty and unity. And, quite simply, it’s yet another fine example of how good old-fashioned sci-fi should be written.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

And if you’re still undecided, you can get the lowdown on the entire Quantum Evolution Series by reading my previous reviews at the very end of this review.

So, would YOU like to take a peek into our possible future?

Then follow the buy link below:


The Quantum Evolution Series:

The Quantum Magician:

The Quantum Garden:

The Quantum War:

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