Saturday, February 26, 2011

Featured Novel: Pepe, a new sci-fi adventure for young adults

Author: Robby Charters

Genre: YA sci-fi

Read a free sample:

Publisher's blurb: The year is 2040. We have people living on Mars, but haven't sorted out life on earth yet. To the boy washing windscreens at the traffic signal, it could just as well be 1940. The boy is Pepe. He doesn't know who his real parents are. His 'grandma' dies in a slum fire, and he is left to fend for himself and his grandma's biological granddaughter, Po, whom he treats like a real sister. They live in an abandoned construction site with other homeless children. With help from a young computer hacker named Raul and a mystical old man named Atsuko, Pepe discovers his true identity.

The villain
: General Don Juan Clemente, who seized power from the king ten years ago, and installed himself as president for life. The General has a degenerative disease that is paralysing him. However, his brain has been linked to a computer network that enables him to control the country and destroy any threat to his

A Review from Fallen Angels Reviews

by Robby Charters is a young adult action/suspense story.

The Republic of Cardovia's government was overthrown by General Don Juan Clemente ten years ago leaving the lower class in dire straits. The rich became richer leaving the working class to fend for themselves. On the surface, the new government appears to support their people, but the underclass knows another story. Pepe cleans windshields to get enough money for him and his sister Po. The work is difficult, but what else could a young child do except join a gang, but that has its own problems. While Pepe was cleaning an old Asian man's Atsuko's window the police arrive, but he is saved when Atsuko tells him to get in his car. Later the man tells Pepe to come to him if he has any problems. Things were quiet for a year until Pepe and Po barely escaped from their home, but their grandmother was never found, leaving them homeless.

Atsuko and Rosa Maria, his daughter, have been looking for Pepe ever since the fire, but he is no where to be found. Atsuko goes to visit Carlo Primavera, a friend and high ranking member of the government. Atsuko tries to get him to take another look at what is going on in Cardovia, but Carlo remains loyal to the core. Rosa Maria visits with Raul, Carlo's son, who is into computers and robotics. Atsuko tells Rose Maria they had to go before Raul makes a big discovery. Father Antonio runs a home called Mercy house that takes in street children, and is having difficulties from his superiors who don't agree with the way he runs the home. Pepe knows of Mercy House, but refuses to trust anyone until fate takes a hand and Atsuko comes to the rescue again. Who is Atsuko and how is it that he is always there when Pepe needs him? Who will stand up for the downtrodden of Cardovia?

Mr. Charters has created a futuristic society very much like our own. The class system that separates the well-to-do from the poor is very sad. Raul's father Carlo is like many people who only see what they want until they are forced to see the truth. Pepe may have a difficult life, but he loves his sister very much and tries to take care of her as best as he can. It was scary to see how the children on the streets had to not only fend for themselves, but hide from others who would exploit them. The mystery surrounding Atsuko brings a whole new dimension and excitement to the story line. I was fascinated by how Atsuko seemed to know what was about to happen, but to say anything more would give away the surprise to this story. This is the first book by Mr. Charters I have, read and it won't be the last!

Reviewed by: Teresa

A review from Readers Favourites

Pepe and Po live on the streets after a fire destroys their apartment building. They find shelter in an abandoned building along with other street kids. Jose is a drug addict. Raquel and her twin brothers also live there. They make friends with Raul, a rich kid and computer whiz. He realizes Pepe is in grave danger and tries to help him.

Danger lies ahead for Pepe when he faces corrupt government, killer robots and his true identity. This is a futurist book. It is action packed and held my attention to the last page. The characters interact well with each other. Fans of science fiction will enjoy Pepe.

A blurb from Robby Charters himself

If you see my name on the cover, I'm Robby Charters, but if you meet me inside the story itself, I'm Boz. My appearances reflect my actual history, as it coincides with the narrative -- well, I never lived in Cardovia, that's a fictional country. But I got various ideas for it from Bangkok, where I have lived for much of my life. At this time in our lives, we're back and forth a lot between Thailand and Ireland. "We" -- meaning myself, my wife Bless and son, Abie. The experience for Pepe was gained in Thailand, the writing of it, in Northern Ireland, and it was published when I was in Thailand again. Now we're back in Ireland.

is a cyberpunk novel -- perhaps a bit of crossover to fantasy -- set in 2040 (I wanted to begin it in 2020, but the publisher thought that some of the elements were a bit too futuristic -- especially the effects of global warming and all, so I went with her suggestion).

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 a vast slum community named the Dockyards (which is one of the central locations); later, an abandoned multi story construction site with other homeless kids; and then, a shelter for homeless children, Mercy House, which I've based on an actual place where I worked for a year. More about that in a bit. 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.

Mercy House
was inspired by Father Joe Maier's Mercy Centre (Human Development Foundation) in Bangkok. I described it as closely as possible without sounding like a publicity brochure. The real-world Mercy Centre also includes an AIDS hospice for terminal victims of that disease, and a slum kindergarten. I had the privilege of working with Fr. Joe for one year. It's in that capacity that I make my appearance as a minor character. In real life, I did what Boz did in the story, which was to translate case histories and supervise some of the children's art projects.

I've also had other contact with homeless children previous to that. For one week, once, I befriended a boy who had been sleeping on the grounds of a house I had started to rent. He won my heart, then ran away again...

Some of the settings were inspired by various parts of Bangkok, especially the slum community where HDF is located (also near the docks). Kids cleaning people's windscreens at intersections, is a common sight there. However, some aspects of the political and social situation (especially with regard to homeless children) were inspired by situations in Colombia and Brazil. The actual setting, Cardovia, is fictional -- the 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.

It's Cyberpunk
: The blurb for the story told you 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.

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.

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 -- (doing a Mr. Bean) --
I like it anyway...

Thanks so much to Robby Charters for sharing with us about your fascinated sci-fi book for young adults!

To my readers, be sure to watch for a future interview with Robby.

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