01 July 2014

+JMJ+

Option #29: Project 17 by Eliza Victoria
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter and see the Giveaways page for more information)

"A lot of people fought the idea when they were first introduced in 2015," [the old woman] said, pointing at the walking Sentry, aware that she now had an audience. "I remember. They said it was government control, that it would pave the way for a second, stronger Martial Law, a literal hand of steel that we wouldn't be able to fight. But I'm 60 years old and I remember the state of law and order long before the Sentries came, and it doesn't compare to this . . . I remember a time when troops operated as local officials' private armies . . . Others shook down citizens, asking for money and planting evidence, or conjuring make-believe violations . . . Some were kind, but flawed, shooting hostages instead of the hostage takers, endangering bystanders because they either got nervous in front of the TV cameras or were just plain stupid. Some were good souls, but the corrupt system broke them . . . That there's your police and military, and you can't trust them. Justice can only be delivered by someone who doesn't care about how much he's paid . . . whose ego won't be inflated by grandeur or power . . . who won't be influenced by this guy's being the CEO of this or his being the Mayor of that. And let's face it: that someone couldn't be human."

If I had wanted a palate cleanser after two "social justice novels" in a row, then I couldn't have asked for better than this Science Fiction novella, set in a future when I could play the old lady with a long memory. But would I be as rosy-eyed as she about the robot Sentries who ushered in a new golden age of peace and order? As you can see, there's still some relevant social commentary in Eliza Victoria's Project 17, but it is secondary to all the other elements. That's probably the most unsatisfying thing about it.

I'm throwing it into the June Giveaway pool anyway because anything goes in July it's the first example of "Philippine Speculative Fiction" I've ever read and because it's a twist on the sort-of genre that is the "Governess Novel", which you know I love.

"I'm a baby-sitter," she said, enunciating carefully. "You did read the ad, didn't you? An eleven-year-old would have been too old for me."

"But you have caregiver experience," Paul said. "I checked your CV."

Lillian sighed in exasperation. "So I took a job at an Elders' home when I was sixteen, so f****** what. Why didn't you just tell me your brother's age? You should have been transparent."

"Would you have come if I had told you the truth? . . . Caleb has schizoaffective disorder."

Add this novel's premise to the list of mind-blowing things that never happened to me when I was "baby-sitting." =P But that doesn't mean I didn't deal with my share of mysteries. If you think about it, taking care of someone within his home and yet remaining an outsider to his family creates an aura of mystery--and indeed, every time I was hired to tutor another child, the question of why his parents needed someone else to do it could keep me fascinated for the entire school year. In Project 17, Lillian's mystery begins when she is hired by an obviously wealthy family to look after an adult member who is on psychiatric meds. And her question is: Why did they choose a baby-sitter who has yet to graduate from uni over a professional nurse with relevant experience?

My question is: What happened to Philippine society after 2015 to make baby-sitting a viable part-time job for uni students? That is, why doesn't the loaded Dolores family have a live-in maid? We know from another scene that low-level jobs are being phased out as robots become more capable of "serving with a smile" . . . but the Doloreses have a Cleaner robot over only every other day. Seriously, what happened to the hired help and to everyone else with a minimum wage job? Did they all become "Overseas Filipino Workers"? I'd love a more comprehensive look at this future Philippine society, but Victoria is stingy on the details.

And that's why Project 17, out of all the other options in the June Giveaway pool, doesn't really "feel Filipino." We have the local dishes mechado and adobo appearing in fusion cuisine, debates about Tagalog vs. Filipino on the Internet, tweets from local media giants, an accurate memory of what the national police and the military were like in the twentieth century, and an admittedly glorious allusion to a classic Filipino novel . . . but apart from these, the story could have taken place anywhere in the world. If Hollywood ever snaps up the rights to Project 17, it wouldn't be too hard for American screenwriters to set this in a generically futuristic Los Angeles. Peace and order theme and all: I mean, you've heard about the LAPD these days, right?

Finally, if I didn't let Bienvenido N. Santos and F. Sionil Jose get away with bad copyediting, I won't give Eliza Victoria a pass. There's at least one pronoun which uses the wrong gender, a use of "who's" as "whose," and several misspellings of "baby-sitter." But as before, nothing bad enough to keep me from recommending Project 17 to anyone who thinks the premise sounds interesting.


You should choose this book in the giveaway if . . . you'd absolutely love to uncover a huge conspiracy behind your own humdrum job.

*You should not choose this book in the giveaway if the thought of a small animal being hurt would totally ruin your day.


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Image Source: Project 17 by Eliza Victoria

2 comments:

NoelCT said...

This one sounds interesting. I'll have to check it out.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I hope you like it when you do, Noel! =)