A DELICATE BALANCE a gen novel by Sondra Sweigman. This is a sequel to Sondra's post-Gauda Prime novel Beloved Adversary. The story further explores Blake and Avon's volatile relationship, this time during a mission to neutralize an entire batch of Pylene 50 at its source. Blake intends to infiltrate the production facility personally by undergoing reconstructive surgery to disguise his identity and then posing as a Federation doctor - but Avon has other plans as to just how the ruse should be accomplished. The trick is to keep Servalan, Arlen and the rest of the Federation from discovering their tampering.
Returning for this go-round are Docholli, Deva, Soolin, Tarrant, Vila and Dayna, though all are somewhat peripheral, since this is very much Blake and Avon's story. As we might expect, they spend most of it at loggerheads. Avon's undergone quite a transformation, however, since his pre-Gauda Prime days. He's "learned to care," and occasionally even says so, though he's sorely tempted to leave Blake and company in the lurch more than once just the same. (Well, there's obviously still some of the old Avon left!) He does, in fact, very nearly leave them at one point. But as familiar fate would have it (fate and Avon are old enemies/friends, after all,) he can't get a shuttle reservation when he needs it, so for lack of a seat, the mission and Blake's Cause are saved again. It's just the sort of ironic twist Avon would appreciate. There's also a great deal of self-sacrificing in this story (primarily, but not entirely, on Blake's part), as well as some rather intense torture sequences, and plenty of heated argument from Avon over Blake's pig-headed insistence on constantly placing himself at risk. Avon, however, takes some rather significant risks himself, proving that he's not at all (at least, certainly not in fan fiction!) as cold- hearted and aloof as he appears.
A Delicate Balance is a well-craftcd, angst-ridden character study that delves deeply into the psyches of B7's two most embattled and complex characters. It's a conflict we never can seem to get enough of.
See also Beloved Adversary a prequel.
Lucia Casarella Moore cover A-B, color
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