Tablay | Book Review + Author Interview

Title: Tablay

Author: Katrina F. Olan

Publisher: Central Books Supply Inc.

Genre: Science Fiction

Date of Publication: October 19, 2019

Synopsis:

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.


Tablay is not just your ordinary sci-fi book intertwined with Philippine Mythology. It is another level of epic joyride to Philippine’s culture featuring its own Myths.

The book is set hundred years apart from the present. It shows how idealistic and techy Manila is from that point of view. A series of mech pilots and engineers are the driving force to fight the hostiles that are Tiktik, Nuno, Kapre, Garuda. These hostiles are inspired by the Philippines own Mythology. These are creatures mostly feared by all ages until now even though we’re living in a new era and millennium. And so, the story goes as Anya, a mech pilot, unravel a sneaky history behind what the country is facing.

What I like about this book is the raw, unique, and original content and ideas. This is my second sci-fi book set in the Philippines, the other is The Project Pandora. I do believe that Filipino writers can incredibly write sci-fi and techy novels set in our own country and their evolvement in literature can be wildly immense all throughout the process of learning and writing their own stories.  Secondly, Olan’s imaginative mind is astounding. She writes the book with passion and set forth the story with a collegial power so that Millennial’s can easily grasp and fancy the book. The characters are reader-friendly and easy to follow through. (Shout out to Totoy, the best friend of the year.)  Third, the building blocks of the story is perfect for modern retelling of a decade old legends planted in the land of the Philippines. Lastly, the graphics are to die for. From the Podcast held by PopMug last August 1 featuring the team Tablay, the artists behind the artworks totally gave their efforts and I’m proud to say that they nailed it.

On the other side, what I observe mostly in sci-fi books, the love thing they want to build is not in accordance to what it should be in the hearts of the readers. Anya and Chino’s romantic involvement kind of lacks of buzz. It should be developed naturally and it should go softly as it is. Also, I notice that there’s not much history in each of the characters. I mean I would like to know each and everyone in the Mech Team even just a little bit of a background history on why did they choose to be part of the mech. The diversity is present which is really good. The language is in moderate with a touch of Filipino dialect. For me, I like it. It’s not exact exaggeration and found it just as stable as the book.

Down to my final thoughts. Tablay is a book that will remind us that not all things that we witness is genuine to what our eyes see. Not all things are transparent. Our country is facing a huge crisis and Tablay thought me to fight for our lives, seek the truth, speak our voices, and face our worst enemies. Well, we think that our enemies are our life time opponent but Tablay showed me that it is not always how we perceive the strangeness and anger towards our opponent, but we’ll see that our enemies themselves are our allies. They both made us weak and strong and that’s the beauty of the beauty of our lives, both bitterness and sweetness inside. It tells is to leave with our dreams wholeheartedly. And as the book aid, it is not the country who will save us, nor the government, nor the people we live with, but only ourselves. So, fight until you get what you deserved.

#SugodBagongBayani #TablayNovel

I’m very grateful for Kat’s response regarding my mini author interview. Check this out:

Why ‘Tablay’? The title is evocative of many themes in the book. Tablay is Filipino for electric charge. It is what powers the city, and also the source of conflict of the Aswang War. It is also representative of the Bakunawa bomb, the weapon of mass destruction in the book. It also symbolizes the energy within each of us, which propels us forward as protagonists in our own story.

How long did you write Tablay? Two years. I started writing it during my Masters year of college, when I transitioned between school and work. I guess you can say a lot of what Anya experienced was similar to my own personal experience.

How did you come up with the characters’ name? I’ll be very honest. I mixed and matched the names of my Facebook friends.  

Why did you corroborate Philippine Mythology with Modern Technology? I wanted to try something that hadn’t been done before, but was distinctly something that we could own. Who ever thought of mechanized aswangs — it’s like anime and our own folklore in one fevered dream. I want to be on the frontier of this kind of genre.  

Aside from Philippine Mythology, do you have any other ideas or options before as to the theme and characters of the story? Nope. It was one of my first concepts and I fell in love with it, so I dove right in.  

Do you think after 134 years the technologies will finally replace people? I believe that a number of blue-collared jobs will be replaced by machines: factory work, clerical work, construction, delivery and even security. Of course, there are many factors that will influence this including economy and government. In an ideal world, we will leave the robots to do manual work, so that as human beings we can be lifted to a higher plane of existence. In the Google Creative Campus, in which I was a student, we were taught that technology should always be an “and” game, never an “or” game. It must always enhance the human experience and never replace it. Nothing can substitute the intuition and emotion of a human being, even with AI.  

What do you think is the Tablay’s impact in today’s modern literature and generation? I would like it to prove that anyone can tell their story. I think more than being a breakthrough in the genre, it shows that for as long as you have the willpower and dedication, you can make your book into a reality. We are so lucky that today we have many self-publishers (even Wattpad and Webtoons) where people can share their stories and be discovered. I also hope that Tablay is a story that narrates the events of this generation, as what we tackle in the book is a reflection of what is happening to the Philippines today.  

Do you think technology will come hand in hand with progress or will it be humanity’s doom? The future depends on what we make of the present. According to scientists, mankind has reached the age of Singularity: the point in which we do not know whether technology will be useful for us or overtake us. Technology is amoral. It will really depend on our generation. We have to choose to be kind and good. Always.  

What did you feel to the reader’s response to your book? Did you feel any pressure? I am so thankful for all kinds of responses towards the book. Most of them are positive, anyway. Definitely, my heart leaps when I get a very high rate and review, and a great booktube video. But also I am so thankful to people who pointed out the shortcomings of the book, because it exposed the parts where I can improve for my future work. Actually, it’s so hard to be in this creative field. Most of the judgments are based on gut feel and not objective rubrics, unlike science or medicine. Some love it. Some hate it. Some think it could be longer. Some had enough. People loved Anya. People thought she was flat. Everyone has their own opinion. Let’s respect that.  

Can you give a simple message to our modern heroes? Choose to fight for the good of the country and its people. Especially during these trying times where evil is commonplace, never lose hope that good will prevail. Like General Nicanor said: “The Philippines will be saved by the ordinary people and their extraordinary work.” Sugod, mga bagong bayani!


Check out the other reviews made by Filipino Book Bloggers:

Jocas – jdlreads.wordpress.com Dexter – dexteroustotalus.wordpress.com Krista – stellarpages.wordpress.com Fay – wifisandnovels.wordpress.com Rovie – rarevenclaw.wordpress.com Donna – pagesinwaves.wordpress.com

Tablay Social Links:


About the Author:

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 tablaynovel@gmail.com

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