Kij Johnson’s excellent The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe starts with the main character’s efforts to help one person, a former student, then the program where the main character works, then the university (Ulthar, in the quotation below), and the valley of towns around it. A summary of the journey through a land eventually increases what is at stake if the character is not successful. Notice how concisely this is done. The characters and details mentioned in the summary allow readers to remember earlier events in the book, so they are more likely to feel urgency about the fate of the main character and her world.
“Then Ulthar cannot be saved?” She thought of it: Ulthar; but also Nir and Hatheg and all the little inns and farmhouses; the shepherds and the ox-drivers; Gnesa Petso and the Bursar and Derysk Oure; the toll-taker at the bridge with her practiced tale of human sacrifice; the man renting punts on the Aëdl, the Eb-Taqar Fellows with their elaborate Flittide parties; the girl in the Woolmarket who had taught her monkey to curtsey for coins—so many men and women and children. And everyone gone. She took a breath. “There must be alternatives.” They talked on.
― from The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe