Ever since I’ve read Eliza Victoria‘s Unseen Moon, I became a fan. When the news broke that she published a new book last year, I really wanted to get a copy but I missed it during the book fair. Initially, I don’t have any idea about Project 17, but I was so attracted on the book cover (cover and illustrations by Jap Mikel) and Victoria’s books are now an auto-buy for me, I got a copy. I am glad I was able to grab one last Summer Komikon!
Let’s admit it, there are only a few number of science fiction books by our local authors in the Philippines—or maybe I’m just not that well-read when it comes to Filipiniana—and this is a good news that our local authors are now venturing and writing different genres (most of our local writers are into chick-lit and literary fiction).
Project 17 is set in the immediate to near future in the Philippines where robots are now among humans. Cellphones, no-hands, high-technology devices are part of being a human to survive. In this story, our protagonist, Lillian was hired as a babysitter for summer job by a man named Paul Dolores. Her duty is to look after his younger brother, a 28-year old guy suffering from a schizoaffective disorder named Caleb. The situation looks harmless and soon she accepted the job. Boring day after boring day, she starts being curious about the lives of this two brothers as well as Caleb’s medications that are nonexistent online.
What I like about Project 17 is how Victoria created a world that is new and familiar at the same time. She didn’t dwell too much on being science fiction or on using epistaxis-inducing geeky high science/technology terms for a non-science-fiction-fan like me. It’s just on the right combination of science fiction, mixed with mystery and thrown in bits of humor. What piqued my interest is the mental disorder mentioned in the book. I really like books with health or mental disorders because I had close encounters with people with mental problems when I was a college nursing student. It was a memorable experience and I am forever interested and curious on such topics. Although the book only has few mentions about the mental case, the flow of the story didn’t disappoint. It was well-paced, although I found myself being impatient because it’s a thin book and there’s too much going on! But then, it was all right because things fell into places and I’m all ohhhs and ahhhs after connecting all the details. I like that the book gave off a feeling like I am a detective on a run chased by some big, unknown, all-seeing person ala Big Brother for discovering such information Lillian learned. I felt bits of paranoia and was on a look out for heavily-tinted cars that might, you know, kidnap me. Ha ha.
When it comes to characters, they are interesting at first but as the story goes on, they are still the same after all those when-shit-hits-the-fan moments—well, except for Caleb. But I like them all anyway, especially Jaime and Max because they are such a fun bunch. I don’t think I’ll enjoy the book without them.
Overall, I really really like the book. It’s like Orwell’s 1984 with robots! But I wish the ending isn’t like that. I mean, it’s a bit vague—Ugh! I can’t explain without spoiling the ending!—but do you think there will be a sequel? I hope so. Or maybe another book set in the same universe? YES, PLEASE. Or maybe a film adaptation? WHY NOT! Anyway, it’s a great read and I highly recommend you to read it :)
Project 17 by Eliza Victoria is available in all our major bookstores. For more details, visit Eliza Victoria’s website.