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Pepe Paperback – April 13, 2011
From the Author
I have about about ten or so novels, novellas, shorts -- whatever --available on Amazon, and in my opinion, PEPE is my best one.
It's in the Cyberpunk Noir genre -- perhaps a bit of crossover to Urban Fantasy -- set in 2040. Pepe is a homeless street boy who doesn't know his true identity. In the course of the story,he lives in places you'd typically find them: before the fire, in avast slum community named the Dockyards (which is one of the central locations); later, an abandoned multistory construction site with other homeless kids; and then, a shelter for homeless children, Mercy House, which I've based on Mercy Centre, Bangkok, where I worked for a year. Everywhere he lives, he has his sister, Po, with him. She's two years younger, she's not his biological sister, but he knows he's gotta take care of her. I've described the life of street kids as closely as I can without making the story dreary and dismal. There's every type: Pepe's and Po's "grandma" died when their home was burnt in a slum fire; there's Jose, the drug addict, who ran away from an abusive dad; and Raquel and her six-year-old twin brothers, Pierre and Michele (don't worry -- no tiresome comedies-of-errors). Their mother abandoned them after their dad went to prison. They are French/African. Raquel is a colourful character. I loved doing her.
Urban Fantasy: The story is set in the fictional Southern European nation of Cardovia,with a history that goes back thousands of years. Cardo, the founder and first king of the dynasty, once paid a visit to King Solomon and received a special gift from him. This, and the character of Atsuko,the aged Japanese mystic, give the story its fantasy edge.
...and it's Cyberpunk: The blurb above said that the General's brain had been wired to a network of computers and robots. You'll see that that can definitely have its disadvantages. Unbeknownst to his dad, Raul is a hacker. His dad is an army colonel, one of the General's top commanders. Their family is typical upper-crust -- the opposite end of the spectrum from Pepe and Po. Things get precarious when Raul hacks into the Generals computer system and realises what kind of person he really is. He gets a firsthand glimpse of the underbelly of what's been passed off as a modern miracle -- definitely noir...
Rich kid meets poor kid: We see the typical attitude of rich kids towards "low-lifers", but things happen. A relationship slowly develops until Raul, Pepe and Po are the closest of friends. He enters their world as one of them. At the same time, in front of his computer terminal and VR set, sometimes accompanied by Pepe, he makes discovery after amazing discovery. Puzzle pieces begin to fit together, until suddenly he realises the danger Pepe is in. In fact, it might be too late...I'll stop here. I'm giving too much away.
"Homeless Children" (or "Street Kid") genre: I've said in some of my reviews of various books that we need a new genre category. That would include books like Justin Reed Early's Street Child, Donna Jo Napoli's King of Mulberry Street, Clive King's Me and My Million, Fr. Joe Maier's Welcome to the Bangkok Slaughterhouse, and even classics like Oliver Twist and Huckleberry Finn. They'd all be cross genre-ed with historical fiction, science fiction, memoirs, you name it...
There are no superheroes. Everyone's thoroughly human. Perhaps the closest thing to a superhero is Atsuko, but even he has his limitations. But, everyone does what it takes to give the story an ending that should be thoroughly satisfying.
I think you'll like it.
Well -- (author does a "Mr. Bean") -- I like it anyway...
About the Author
Robby Charters has lived most of his life in Thailand where he was born of an Irish father and an American mother. His wife is Thai, and they have one son who plays computer games. At present they live in Northern Ireland, where Robby designs eBooks. In Thailand, he did lots of things, most recently teaching English. He also worked for a year at Mercy Centre, with Father Joe Maier, a shelter for homeless children, which inspired many aspects of the novel Pepe.
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Top customer reviews
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But so will those of you who see where the story is taking us: children with mysterious beginnings, a dedicated stranger who watches them, the cruel dictatorship that is ruining the country, and one smart kid who can use the robots to get information, or travel to safe parts of town.
Where Flows the River Twee
Blond, blue-eyed Pepe and his foster-sister Po end up on the streets, but they’re not alone. Watched over by an enigmatic, Japanese man named Atsuko, the children are introduced to Raul, a privileged kid with a knack for hacking. When Raul uncovers government secrets, he learns Pepe is more than anyone (other than Atsuko) knows.
How Atsuko, Pepe, Po and Raul change their nation is suspenseful and ingenious. The writer’s tone is engagingly immediate and wry. Not the simple, children’s tale the title suggests, Pepe has intricate plotting, strong characterization, great action scenes and moral dilemmas. It’s a story for all but the very young. I highly recommend it.
Charters does a good job of describing a possible future scenario and simplifying the complexities of national leadership for a younger audience. His characters are interesting and likeable, and the plot of the story is not obvious and has some nice twists.
I only have a few constructive comments. First, the book is a little rough at spots and seems to jump around leaving the reader feeling a bit like they are on a roller coaster that is going too fast to enjoy the ride. Perhaps taking some time to flesh out the various scenes would allow the reader to enjoy the experience rather than to feel like the author is trying to get to the end he has in mind too quickly.
Second, there are times where more mature readers may scratch their heads and wonder if the story is “believable.” I know that is an odd thing to say about a fictional book, but there were moments when I had to ask myself, in the world that Charters has created, would this or that really happen?
Finally, the book needs a little polishing and could use a good editor to go over it to correct any grammatical mistakes.
Overall, I think Pepe is a good book and one that younger people will enjoy. I would have given it four stars, but the book needs some polishing and editing cleanup.
Set in the near future in the fictional country of Cardovia, the story follows multiple characters as they try to survive in a society where a dictatorship has recently emerged. The story was action-packed, the characters were unique, and there was a surprising amount of complexity to the society given the fact that the novel itself is not long.
I felt that Charters paid particular attention building a country that could easily exist in Europe, with both French and Spanish influences, one represented by the historically elite class and the other by those generally confined to poverty but including those who have risen up over time. I also particularly liked Atsuko, who, as a man of Japanese heritage. I think his outsider status was intentional to put him above the fray, as it were.
As I said earlier, Pepe is action-packed. You are drawn through the book rapidly. Charters' writing style is very blunt and to the point. The voice is at times journalistic and at other times very much a recounting of a young boy, and that lent a blunt quality to the writing. It almost read like a young adult novel, as Charters did not spend much time setting scenes or including a lot of description. I don't mind that writing style, but some who want a very descriptive, immersive world may feel cheated.
It would have been my preference to have more of Pepe's actual thoughts and struggle in the novel. There was definitely room in the length of the novel based on how much action occurred to stretch it out a bit and show some of his struggles in the last 25% of the book. I won't go into details, as this book should not be spoiled, but I felt there was room to turn some exposition into scenes showing the conflicts described in some places. Other than that, which is just a preference of mine and may not bother other readers, I thought Pepe had a unique voice, an interesting world, and a great story with good pacing! If you want a quick and entertaining read, Pepe fits the bill.
I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
Most recent customer reviews
is meant for YA readers I enjoyed this futuristic fantasy from start to finish.Read more