Here’s a post about novels where the world doesn’t get saved:
Books that celebrate smaller, more intimate stakes (and shout-out to Eric Smith for introducing me to the phrasing!) and eschew focusing on the larger stakes, though, can feel like they’re far and few between or like they never existed in the first place, which is a shame because people have always written these types of stories too, even won acclaim with them. ... my definition for inclusion on the list is two-fold:
- No galaxy/world/kingdom-changing plot unless it’s the B-plot (and ideally a C-plot).
- The book must have been memorable to me for its small stakes.
Before you click through, I will say: the use of “small” or “intimate” stakes in this post is not a synonym for “low tension.” At all. The problems are often on the level of one person’s success or one person’s life, but they’re often pretty dire problems. I’m speaking here of the ones I’ve read myself, obviously. At least one is probably rather society-changing and I question it’s inclusion.
Still, click through and peruse the list if you have a moment. Here are some of the books you’ll find: Greenwich (Susan Cooper), Tombs of Atuan (LeGuin), Beauty (McKinley). Also The Changeling Sea and Winter Rose (McKillip).
With the exception of Greenwich, which was hardly my favorite in that series, these are all books I just loved. And I certainly agree about their intimate focus. The list also includes a whooooole bunch of more recent titles, of which I’ve read only a couple — Scorpio Races (Stiefvater) and Archivist Wasp (Kornher-Stace). I don’t agree that latter one belongs on this list, though I understand why the author of the list declared it did.
There are sooooo many titles that could easily be added. Let me try to add ten more that fit particularly well and that I particularly love. These are not in any order, just as they occurred to me right this minute as I wrote this post.
3. The Sharing Knife quadrilogy (LMB)
6. “Blood” (Sharon Shinn), which is from her collection Quatrain.
7. Come to think of it, also Fortune and Fate (Shinn again) I realize it’s kind of cheating to include so many different stories by the same author, but still. You know, actually, The Shapechange’s Wife also fits.
8. Chanur’s Legacy by CJC. This is Hilfy’s story, as you may recall, so the stakes are very high for Hilfy, but the fate of her world and species doesn’t hang on the outcome.
I included one novella above, so here’s another”
9. “Buttercups” (Robin McKinley). That’s in her collection A Knot in the Grain. I think it’s the standout novella in that collection.
I’m sure I could come up with a tenth, but why should I do all the work when all of you are probably saying, “How could she possibly have forgotten ________? Please drop whatever obvious title I’ve forgotten in the comments!