Genre : Science fiction
Publisher : Solaris
Length : 500 pages
Format : eARC
Rating : 3.5 stars
Publication Date : August 18th 2020
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.
Venus is beautiful but she will kill you if you make a single mistake.
That’s the first thing that each member of la colonie has to learn. Living in floating habitats, the colonists have to survive with very limited resources and are at the mercy of Venus all the time.
The D’Aquillon family lives with even less than most. Ostracized from the community since George-Etienne and his wife refused to abort their child with Down syndrome, the d’Aquillons now have to live closer to the surface of Venus. But, “family comes first” for George-Etienne and if it means living in the old Causapscal-des-Profondeurs and fighting even harder for resources, so be it.
Years later, the future doesn’t look good for the family. They have lost three of their members to Venus and are struggling with the lack of resources. Marthe and Emile, two of George-Etienne children are now living in higher habitats. Marthe represents her family in la colonie’s assembly. Her brother Emile, who fled the Causapscal-des-Profondeurs after several heated arguments with George-Etienne, lives with her. He is an artist and, like many artists in la colonie, he doesn’t feel like he belongs on Venus. His only occupations are to drink, smoke weed and follows his cult-leader girlfriend Thérèse everywhere.
On the Causapscal-des-Profondeurs, George-Etienne and his youngest son Pascal (later Pascale), are trying to hold the family together. Their habitat is decaying and la colonie doesn’t have the resources nor the want to help them. They can only hope for a miracle, and this miracle may very well be hiding in the heart of Venus…
I loved The Quantum Magician and The Quantum Garden so I was very excited to read the first installment in Derek Künsken’s new duology. I haven’t read a lot of books set on Venus – I know it was a popular setting in pulp SF but it quickly fell in the backside when scientists realized that Venus wasn’t exactly a hospitable place. High pressure, extreme temperatures and acidic rains are not exactly “human-friendly”. However, I really loved how Künsken created a community, la colonie, completely adapted to the complexities of Venus. It was fascinating to read about the organization, the management of resources and the sacrifices that had to be made in order for the community to survive as a whole.
I was also fascinated by the characters. The House of Styx follows several members of the d’Aquillon family: George-Etienne, the father who is ready to sacrifice everything for his children, Marthe the oldest daughter, her brother Emile the poet and Pascale the genius engineer.
My favorites were without a doubt Marthe and Pascale. I loved Marthe because she is the type of character I pretty much always love: she’s competent, she doesn’t take shit from anyone but she’s also kind and understanding. She has a lot of her father’s qualities (the loyalty to her family and the courage) but she is also less stubborn and more trusting than George-Etienne. As for Pascale, I have a fondness for engineers in general and I really loved reading about her and her own journey. In the course of the novel, she discovers why she never felt at ease in her body: she’s not Pascal the second son but Pascale, a woman born in the wrong body. The moment the narration switched from Pascal (he/his) to Pascale (she/her), I cried. I’m not usually a cry-baby but I felt so happy for her because she finally realized who she was.
However, while I was fascinated by the world and I really liked the cast of characters, something didn’t quite click for me with this book. I think it had something to do with the pacing. The book is 500 pages and it took a long time for the plot to move forward. The first half of the book was focused on character and world-building and, when things started moving, I had already lost focus. Even if the pacing was a bit off for me, I will give the sequel a chance. I think I will probably like it more now that the world and the characters have been introduced.