“Sa tournament ng TALA Online sa bayan ng Balanga, namatay ang lahat ng manlalaro maliban kay Janus.
Sunud-sunod pa ang naging kaso ng pagkamatay ng mga kabataan sa computer shops sa iba’t ibang panig ng bansa. Kinontak si Janus ng nagpakilalang Joey, isa rin umano sa mga nakaligtas sa paglalaro ng TALA na gaya niya. Hindi inasahan ni Janus ang mga matutuklasan niya mula rito na mag-uugnay sa kaniya sa misteryo ng kinahuhumalingan niyang RPG–at sa alamat ng Tiyanak mula sa Tabon!”
For my non-Filipino readers, the synopsis is as follows: during a tournament for an online role-playing game, all the participants mysteriously died–save for Janus. Similar cases continues to pop up throughout the country. Janus was then contacted by someone named Joey, who claims that he survived the tournament like Janus did. But what Janus discovers about the online game is something he never expected–that he is linked to it–and to the legend of the Demon of Tabon.
It’s an interesting premise, and is the most promising Filipino Young Adult book I’ve read so far. It has an interesting take on local folklore, it’s easy to read, and it’s very engaging… But it takes so long for readers to finally get to that interesting part. Half the book, actually.
My main problem with Janus Silang is that it takes so long to set everything up, there’s barely any pages left for things to actually happen. Halfway through the book, I started wondering if there was any point to the anecdotes and digressions. And there is. But they come off as distractions more than anything else. Probably because the first few chapters details every single thing in Janus’s life. From the interesting to the mundane. So much so that by the time we actually get to the anecdotes that will pay off? We’re tired of them.
And there’s also the synopsis itself. It sets things up very nicely with Janus surviving an event. And then it talks about a fellow survivor. And then it delivers the punchline of Janus’s connection to the game that killed gamers. When you read the book, the first line happens immediately. The second happens midway. By the time the third line rolls about, you’re already two-thirds into the book. And it’s not a very long book to begin with. So what you get is a very bottom-heavy book that’s doesn’t present a very interesting top.
Obviously, you can’t take the book back from readers now, but there is one simple solution to the whole non-interesting top concern– Have Janus discover the fellow survivor by the second chapter. The way he deals with is feels rushed anyway, so why not put it at the very beginning, so he can deal with it as he deals with his world being torn asunder? Why not use the fact that his world is being torn asunder to become the catalyst for him to actually meet with his fellow survivor?
But, as I said, it’s too late to take the book back now. The book is still interesting anyway. I just hope readers didn’t give up before they got to said interesting part first.
All that said though, I am looking forward to what happens next. Hopefully, the second book wouldn’t need as long a set-up as this first book did.