One more round of read-throughs and the latest changes are:
1. Laura's situation at the beginning needs to feel a bit more dire. She's obviously got a problem, but the psychological turmoil of it could be brought out more.
2. Hone the background of a new piece of technology that's introduced here.
3. Eliminate an extremely minor character who figures into the background of a new major character. This minor character was meant to highlight a sense of betrayal in the major character's life, but eliminating him will, instead, highlight the sense of isolation, which is more valuable.
Finally, and somewhat predictably, there is still a bit of streamlining and simplification necessary surrounding the antagonist of the piece and his plan. I myself lean towards a more vague background, but Jason suggests that giving more details could give the character greater weight. It's a difference, I suppose, between a sense of mysterious unease (vague) and direct threat (specific). There is a compromise between the two that I am going to strike, intending to create a sense of mysterious unease with a direct threat at its center. As regards the villain's plan, cutting extraneous bits here and there should make the whole thing clearer and smoother.
So, we are approaching the nitty-gritty at this point. It's not all small surgical edits, but it is mainly that now. This is excellent, because my deadline is a little more than three weeks away. We're zeroing in here and one or two more edit sessions with my agent Jason should get it ready to go.
Then, of course, my editor Julia gets a crack at it.