Author: Katrina F. Olan
Publishing Date: October 19, 2019
Genre: Sci-fi, Filipino Lit
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.
Manila, 136 years into the future. The line that caught my attention and got me really curious about this book. And Tablay was such a delight to read, just from the way mechas are woven with Philippine Mythology was very entertaining to read. Although, I have qualms that are very personal, I still feel as though Tablay is a great piece of literature that advances Filipino lit.
As the novel starts, the mood is already set. We are faced with futuristic technology such as datapads, mechas, and mecha-hybrid aswangs. Katrina Olan created a very fully realized futuristic Manila, specifically what she called the “New Intramuros”. And in this Manila, we are at war with these mecha-hybrid Aswangs. But, even as we are in the future, there were still things about this world that we have presently, and I was personally thrown off by it. For example, the author still talked about electricity poles and terrible traffic which was a little weird for me and threw me out of that futuristic setting. In other aspects of world building, I really thrived whenever we are being introduced to a mecha and fight scenes. The technicality is obviously very well researched and I commend that. Katrina Olan also managed to weave together such an advance concept with history and mythology. If you explained this kind of novel to me, I would think it would be a complicated concept to come up with but Tablay did it very well.
The writing style is fast paced, which does not work very well for me. I think this is one of the reasons why I have such mixed feelings for Tablay, but there is also room for the author to possibly write a sequel. I find that there are many skips in the timeline that just left me grappling in the dark. There were things that I wanted more explanations and details but because Tablay is a short novel (less than 200 pages?), it just left me hanging most of the time. There was also plenty of trendy dialogue that also threw me off, not because I can’t relate but because they’re trendy in 2020, but after 136 years? I’m not too sure about that.
The premise of Tablay is really interesting, and Katrina Olan’s plot progression was good but, again felt a little bit lacking. And I would say that I think this is because it’s too short. I love how socio-political issues that are still present in the country has been discussed in the book. There are plenty of great points that Tablay posed, but the resolutions felt a little rushed. I think what really threw me off as well is, at the onset Anya was already “the chosen one”. There wasn’t a lot of struggles on her end that there were a lot of moments that I could tell where the story was going.
Same goes with her characters, they are very interesting but just lacked more nuances. Anya was not my favorite character, I found her too proud most of the time and contradicting. And her character arc wasn’t too redeeming in my book. I did enjoy Totoy’s character, he was a really good friend to Anya, he was loyal and smart. Chino is also a favorite character but I wish we had gotten more of him, and well as a chance to see how his character progressed. I did appreciate the queer representation in the book and the good mix of characters.
Overall, if you’re looking for an interesting futuristic novel set in the Philippines, Tablay is a good place to start. It gave us a great new concept of technology, history and culture, and Philippine mythology all mixed together. I would love to see this translated into a visual novel, although the book does have AMAZING illustrations and artwork that will drive your imagination wild! Tablay will give you a different perspective about Manila, and will have you wondering if you’ll eventually see a mecha emerging from Fort Santiago.
Available in the Philippines at: bit.ly/OrderTablayNovel
Coming soon on Amazon Kindle
Thank you to Jocas @ JDLReads for having me on this blog tour! And to Kat Olan who has been so gracious enough to provide a digital copy of Tablay for review. You can check the reviews from the other hosts by checking out the schedule below!
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 and 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 email@example.com