by Sondra Sweigman

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Review by Jean Graham

BELOVED ADVERSARY by Sondra Sweigman is a post-GP gen novel and sequel (although it stands alone quite well) to Sondra's short story "Other People's Hearts" in Rebel Destinies. Beloved Adversary is an alternate universe tale based on the premise that Avon, having stumbled across a self-confrontation "counseling" program Ensor had installed in Orac, doesn't shoot Blake when they meet on GP after all. Not that Blake's survival will end the character conflict between them: they're explosively confrontational throughout the novel, much to the consternation of the rest of the crew (which includes Vila, Dayna, Soolin, Taffant, Deva and eventually, Avalon and Docholli). The plot hinges on discovering and destroying - Servalan's newest source of Pylene 50. But this is primarily a relationship delving story, examining in angst-ridden depth just how far Blake and Avon's dedication to each other can (and will) go. This is not a slash novel, however. Sondra's Blake is resolutely married - to his cause, and even rebuffs Soolin's seductive advances. Avon eventually tells poor frustrated Soolin that Blake is voluntarily celibate.

Avon possesses a somewhat disturbing, self-destructive streak in this story, perhaps induced by the guilt he feels for almost killing Blake. But his loyalty to same also induces his stubborn willingness to endure some (rather gruesome) tortures when an infuriated Servalan fails to drag Blake's whereabouts out of him.

This aspect is beautifully (and graphically) illustrated in Lucia Cassarella Moore's color cover.

See also A Delicate Balance a sequel.

Beloved Adversary is written with professional style and is handsomely presented in an easy-to-read, double-column layout.

Review by Sally Manton


I enjoyed these two zines. First and foremost, they are overwhelming focused on my two favourite characters, and the endlessly absorbing relationship between them. And while I don't entirely agree with the characterisations - especially of Blake - the differences between the author's view and mine aren't grating enough to put me off.

Blake and Avon are the centrepiece of both stories. Now Sondra's Blake, to me, is *too* good, too noble and high-minded; and he knows about and talks about feelings - his and other people's - far too much and far too directly. He's far too - um, what is the word I'm looking for - *nice*. Avon is also considerably nicer than I see him, and the relationship between them, while acceptable, is a tad too lush for my taste, a bit too hot-house in feel - there's little of the dry malice-mixed-with-affection, and none of the iced acid that makes the relationship, gen or slash, burn that much better.

But the voices ring true for the most part - I can *hear* them saying these words. And that's important.

And one must say that they fight splendidly and very believably, and the lighter moments between them and the other characters are handled well. It's hard to mix the angst and the one-liners the way the series did; it isn't done perfectly here, but at least there is some light and shade. Both Avon and Blake get to suffer impressively - the torture scenes in both stories are both long and fairly gruesome - and be heroic (in Avon's case, while denying any such thing), and *act* out their feelings for one another. We're not asked to believe Avon actually *talking* about his feelings (except to himself) and not too much of Blake doing it.

All of the other major characters, though rather lightly fleshed out, are acceptable - I liked what is done with Docholli, Dayna and Avalon; Tarrant and Vila are all right, though both could have used a few more edges. Soolin on the other hand is much too sweet (and there's a seduction scene with Blake that I *cannot* swallow - he may have been mind-wiped, but he isn't that stupid!!) I don't care for Servalan anyway, but this version was quite believable, Arlen worked rather well, and the head villain in Delicate Balance I found very convincing. One of the other original characters in Delicate Balance, however, I found totally off-putting - I'm sure she was meant to be appealingly heroic and noble, but creating an original, good, strong female character seems to be harder than it looks, and this one doesn't work at all and seriously spoils the story for me at least. I kept waiting for Avon to toss her out of an airlock!! (Dayna, who doesn't have to carry the burden of being *good* comes over very well in both stories.)

There are quite a few other things I liked about them; the plots are well thought out, making intelligent use of the Pylene-50 business from the show. The threads involving an attack on the Gauda Prime base, and the one infiltrating the Pylene factory are very good. The backgrounds were solidly imagined, but not intrusive, with a definite sense of place being achieved.

In all, a good story for fans of Blake and Avon, though if you *aren't* into that relationship, you may find very little else to keep your interest...


BELOVED ADVERSARY (novel by Sondra Sweigman; sequel to alt-S4, alt- Blake story, "Other People's Hearts," in REBEL DESTINIES #1; S5; A-B)

Publisher: Kathleen Resch (Temple City, CA)
Date: October 1994

Lucia Casarella Moore cover A-B hc, color

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