AUTHOR: Katrina F. Olan
PUBLISHED BY: Central Book Supply Inc.
PUBLICATION DATE: October 19, 2019
GENRE/S: SciFi, Fantasy
PAGE COUNT: 154
RATING: 3.75 of 5.0 stars
New Intramuros: a hyper-technological smart city surrounded by heavily armored walls. Beyond it, vast mountains and jungles teeming with hostile machine life called aswangs. For over a century, the Philippine Mech Force has been fighting the aswangs with mechs of their own—and talented pilots to fly them.
Anya grew up watching her father, the famed General Armin Valerio, lead the charge during Operation Tablay—an all-out bombing campaign aimed to annihilate the aswangs once and for all. Everything changed when the operation failed, leaving her father an incapacitated man.
Fourteen years later, Anya Valerio enters the Philippine Mech Force as a pilot with hopes of restoring her father’s honor. She quickly becomes a rising star. However, when she finds out a dark secret about the aswangs, her view of the war changes. Now it’s up to Anya and her partner—the reserved but brilliant engineer, Chino Jose—to stop the fight before the consequences are irreversible.
Tablay is Filipino for electric charge. It is the soul of the city, the mover and shaker of machines, the spark between two hearts. But most of all, Tablay aims to shine light on the relation between technology and our society’s ethical choices.
I’ve been seeing this electric pink-purple book in all of my social-media, one that boasts alien mech cross Philippine mythological creatures, I was sold. This book landed on my hands wrapped as a classified document and I was so excited to dig through this.
Tablay by Katrina F. Olan is a decent jab at SciFi genre in Philippine literature. I may have only come across a few and knowing that this book exists gives high hopes for the future of novels published in our country. Olan’s brawn is in her world-building. The 90s kiddo within me resurfaced reading all these descriptions of mech units and Aswangs. I can’t help but be nostalgic as it reminded me of Zoids, Magic Knight Rayearth, Bubble Gum Crisis, and the many anime shows I have loved in my childhood. Although there are elements that are seemingly out of place (pine-shaped sheet car perfumes, tricycles and double hinged-doors 150 years from now?), Olan has definitely created a futuristic backdrop that is both imaginative and still familiar to the reader. All these while carefully weaving our local myths in the narrative’s vital points.
Despite it being an adult SciFi novel, I thought that the writing style is easy to get used to. Olan writes in a way that ebbs with ease. I won’t say it’s simple but it is straightforward with a flow that makes you not put down the book. There’s a certain rhythm that I think she was able to pin down successfully. I am also happy with how she has written the combat sequences brimming with dynamic theatrics and explosive depictions. The art included in the book was cool and would definitely help certain readers envision the battle scenes which is a plus point.
There are quite a number of tropes that readers may love or hate from this book. The entire novel was told in the main character’s perspective. Anya, wilful and idealistic, is definitely the poster child – the chosen one. I appreciated her development and the decisions she made are admirable, however, her shortcomings were not given enough focus to give the full effect of the growth in her character. The romance between Anya and Chino was just assumed tension as it was not established organically. I was caught off-guard reading the dialogue between them and can be cheesy at times. Tablay also has a nice cast of diverse supporting characters and I think the narrative would have benefited if we have explored other perspectives.
Other than entertaining, this book is also brave to project parallels in socio-economic and geo-political landscapes that ring true today. These are issues that are timeless and having them explored in the backbone of the narrative is commendable. I loved that it scrutinized what war, tangible and abstract, can do; that there is not always a black white; and that the now is shaped by history but the future is what we decide it to be.
I am excited to see how Katrina Olan takes on other genres and I am keen at seeing this repackaged as a graphic novel. That would be cool to see the combat scenes in strips. If you are looking for an energetic story ladled on a modern backdrop, Tablay is the book for you.
I received a reading copy in exchange for an honest review. Ideas and opinions in this review are all mine and are not influenced by neither publisher nor author. Thank you Jocas from JDLReads for including me in this tour.
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Katrina F. Olan is a copywriter based in Manila. She crafts commercial scripts for TV, Radio and Digital Films, and ideates creative advertising campaigns for top brands like Uniqlo, Cignal TV, Shell and Century Tuna. Kat was the student Philippine country representative to the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity 2018, and the first Filipino student of the Google Creative Campus that same year.
Beyond work, she is an independent author with two books: Tablay, a Filipino sci-fi novel, and Skies Above, a steampunk fantasy book. She is also active in the local komiks scene. Kat loves video games, travel filmmaking, digital art and hosting Dungeons & Dragons games. One day she hopes to put an independent storytelling agency, a D&D-themed cafe, and pilot a real mecha. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org