Althea's Story Begins
The build-up is finally done. In a traditional three-act structure (which I have been known to flirt with but am not necessarily bound by), this would be the beginning of Act II.
As the cover of Templum Veneris suggests, while Viekko and Althea feature highly in this book, I wanted this book to be more about Althea. I flirted a little bit about who Althea is and what kind of person she is and was in Saturnius Mons, but I kept her largely on the sidelines. She would appear to talk Viekko down of some madness or another, patch up some injuries, put a brave face on things, and then fade into the background.
This was partly by design, although I wish I had done a little more with her in that book. I'm not sure what that would have been or how I would have worked it into the story, but it's one of those little things I feel I could have done slightly better. Or different. But I didn't at the time because I wanted each character's story to unfold when it was time.
A lot of the feeling and emotion that Althea is going through comes from my personal experience; different circumstances, but the same general feeling. And that is the idea of outsider desperately wishing she knew the combination, the secret phrases, or the magical incantations that everyone else seems to have instinctually.
Her situation is different; her 'outsider' status is conferred mainly from her economic class and history rather than just being a socially awkward introvert with an identity crisis. And she deals with it differently. She steals money and uses it to remake herself into what she thinks other people want. I mostly just embraced my introvertish nature and learned to smooth over the worst of my awkward impulses.
But anyone who has been pushed to the outside of social groups or cliques can probably identify with Althea's situation in this chapter. There is that strange duality, a conflict that stems from deep in one's psyche. There is a more primal urge to be part of the group. After all, in our animal ancestry, being excluded from the group meant death. So there's a primal urge involved, which is a hard thing to ignore.
At the same time, you can watch a group of people and feel a wrongness about it. Usually, it's something benign, they share an interest that is foreign or even obscure, there is chemistry involved that doesn't make any sense, or the people are just not your type of people.
|To be fair, those fish are assholes.|
And other times its more insidious.
And I like how this chapter deals with those feelings and how it unfolds. Althea is not sure of what do like I think most people in her situation wouldn't be. It's hard to trust one's own gut feelings, especially when the consequences are as dire as they are here. And what Althea finds in this chapter propels her into the next act and into a collision course with the rest of the team. I like that sort of thing. We get to see the exact reason that Althea is about to lose her shit.
At the same time, we can sort of understand everyone else's reaction.