Stand-alone novels can be a good thing. I'll discuss two novels in a short nature, and I want I feel is significant about it.
The first novel I'm going to discuss is Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. In this novel, the Lunar citizens revolt over the Terran overlords, and establish their own independent nation. One of the biggest characters is Professor Bernardo de la Paz, who calls himself, politically, "a rational anarchist." This line by the Professor created a spark of interest, because of the oxymoronic nature of his views. Of course, the Professor does lead a significant role in this novel, being a leader who takes his position seriously, in order to preserve the moon for future habitation of its denizens. Another aspect of this novel is the computer Mike, officially a HOLMES IV computer. Mike's a bit of a trickster and jokster, but proves to be vital to Lunar resistance, providing information and a "leadership" position. This of course helps secure Luna's freedom, though Mike does not survive (in terms of his human like features) the war between Luna and Earth.
Another novel to discuss is Daybreak, 2250 AD. Set three hundred years in the future after its original publishing date, it depicts humanity enduring an Earth that has gone through an atomic war, and focuses on Fors, a mutant human. Though I haven't read it years, the biggest image of this novel I still remember Fors encountering a row of rusting tanks, their turrets pointed toward the sky. The sense of conventional verse atomic was striking, even with knowledge of what has happened since this novel was written. The sense of being powerless over weapons beyond imagination was very powerful- even today, there is the potential for the use of atomic and radioactive material to hurt people.
For next month, I'll be talking about a particular entity from the Hyperion Cantos series, the Shrike.