Are we recovering our enthusiasm for high-tension, high-stakes novels yet? I’m sure some of us are.
So far I’m still preferring low-tension, low-stakes stories. This is partly just an artifact of wanting to focus most of my attention on my own work, but I’m sure it’s also partly that I’m still (still!) not that interested in high-tension novels, even now.
I’m reading The Mask of Mirrors by MA Carrick, but very slowly. I like it a lot and I am looking forward to telling you about it when I finally finish it, but I keep taking breaks from it for one reason or another, and one of those reasons is that I keep hitting some high-tension moment and don’t want to deal with that and pause for a couple of days. (Another reason is that I got obsessive about finishing the Death’s Lady novella for a while.)
In the meantime, I’m also re-reading various low-stress novels, stories I’m familiar with and don’t have to stress over.
One of those is Exo by Steven Gould. This is the last book in the Jumper series. It can be read as a standalone. It’s about Cent (short for Millicent) getting her life in order and building her own private space program. It’s occasionally heavier on technical detail than I would prefer, but not too much so. The actual bad guys make various moves and are defeated in short order each time. I recommend it as a low-stress, cheerful story. The third book in the series, Impulse, could certainly be read first. It’s a girl-goes-to-school story; again Cent is the protagonist. Lots of dealing with bullies and so on. Again, the actual bad guys make a move. Again, they are quickly defeated. This book is also not particularly stressful, though not as thoroughly as Exo.
I realize it’s not out yet, but I hereby also recommend Keraunani as a low-tension story. Sure, Esau and various other people may find themselves in tight spots from time to time. And granted, I’m possibly not entirely unbiased here. But I’m pretty sure that no reader on the planet could imagine that anything terrible is actually going to happen to Esau, to Keraunani, or to any other named character. The tone ought to make that clear.
Anybody who’s got new suggestions for lower-stress SFF novels, by all means drop them in the comments! It’s going to be that kind of year for me, I’m pretty sure, and I bet many of us would also still like these kinds of stories.