Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pepe by Robby Charters Writes Cyberpunk YA Novel About Dystopian Future - Or... Reality Right Now??? Exciting Use of Computers!

"Pepe, Ennio and Enrico thought it would be cool to hang out down Camino Real. They told Mother Clara they were off to the newsagent to buy sweets and comic books. 
"She said, 'Okay, but come right back.' But they knew she'd be busy giving the girls a lesson in feminine hygiene. Little Pierre tagged along as well. They hung about the newsagent for a bit, leafing through the comic books. Not a lot of fun in that -- the embedded flash animations wouldn't work until the merchant scanned them at the till. Nothing for it but to go. Pepe tried to get Pierre to go home, but he was already on to their plan. Pepe knew if they forced him, he'd go straight to Mother Clara, so they let him come along. 
"They were off. They decided to avoid San Michele Square, because the gang kids who hung out there would as soon beat them up as look at them. They went up a residential street, past a private school and out near the Bank of Cardovia building. 
"It was Saturday, so nobody was at work. Instead, there was a weekend market along the footpath in front of all the banks and brokerage houses. The coffee shops were open, of course, as was Camino Real Centre, further towards San Michele Square. They walked slowly along, looking at all the stalls on the way. Pepe knew he had to keep a close eye on Pierre, or not only would they catch it from Mother Clara when they got back, but he’d have Raquel to answer to. Mother Clara would only spank; Raquel would kill. The magnetic train floated silently overhead.
When they first installed the magnetic train three years ago, Raul thought it was the coolest thing. The track consisted of nothing more than big magnetic hoops mounted about twenty meters apart on top of big fat pillars, two hoops per pillar, so they looked like pairs of spectacles. One was for trains coming, the other for going. 
"Each hoop sent and received magnetic current to and from its counterpart on the next pillar, creating a magnetic field stretching from pillar to pillar that would support the train in mid air. 
"The two-story stations were elevated, and created a nice shade over the street on hot days. The trains entered the enclosed upper level via double round gates on either end (which also functioned as magnetic hoops). The lower level was open all around, and it was for people to get their passes from the machines and go through the turnstiles. People would also use the second level to get across the busy street. You reached that by a sliding staircase from street level. The trains resembled giant worms made of flexi-tubes, only smoother. They looked as though they were floating in the air -- actually, they were travelling through the hoops, riding on the magnetic field they created. 
"At first, it was weird to watch them floating by. They made headlines all over the world. Other countries were worried about environmental and safety factors. That never seemed to be an issue here -- not with the government, anyway. Being the first at something meant more to them. Finally, other countries started installing them too, but they were probably designed for better safety. Now, it was just another feature of every day life -- one more way to get to work, or school, or shopping. A worm-like train was floating into the station above, but he hardly noticed. He was still waiting for Rudolfo and Leo.

By Robby Charters

While the author wrote this as scifi cyberpunk, which it is, I found myself reading it more as a Fairy Tale story. Readers may also get the feel of a story once told, because the background theme is ageless... Characters may have more computer savvy, which is always fun to see how a writer envisions the future! But the good guy versus the bad guy, it seems, will never disappear. Have we given up on utopia and know that we are now living in a dystopian society?

But then, even there, we find hope... 

And Pepe and some really wonderful characters is here to bring us that hope!

Take a look at this cover...Just like shown above, under the city of the Republic of Cardovia, there are children and danger in the slums...

"The giant Flash Animation holograph rotated slowly above the intersection, depicting General Don Juan Clemente, president for life, flicking his eyelid, breaking into a toothy grin as though he were really looking at you. The caption said, '2020, Cardovia's year of vision'. It looked creepy at night. 
"But right now, there were still many hours of daylight left -- too many for Pepe. He looked down the line-up now waiting for the next green, and groaned. The bucket was heavy and drivers were always in a bad mood this time of day. He counted his takings again. 13 Dinarios. Not enough. With a grunt, he lifted his bucket and walked down the island to the first sedan he saw -- a Mercedes. The windscreen wipers immediately went on. 'Okay, okay! Freakin tightwad!' He had to side-step to avoid a motorbike.
Take a good long look at the robotic looking man on the cover--he is your villain and a perfect individual for that role. You won't even feel sorry that he is almost entirely a robot and normally can only be found in his bedroom! Why?

Because he's everywhere he needs to be electronically! Talk about "Big Brother" looking over your shoulder...LOL Of course, General Don Juan Clemente got to his presidential position (for life) through deceit, cunning, and criminal actions!

Pepe on the other hand, is a young boy of 12 who lives in the slums of the Dockyards community. He and his friend Po had been there long enough to become very street savvy, just like the many children who lived on the streets or around the dockyards. They both tried to earn some type of living and stay away from the ganglords, but it was very hard.

"Much of the welfare of the vast slum community is in the hands of gang warlords... It is said by some that power is brokered to them from government agencies.
"The big money is to be found in prostitution, drug trade, child labor, and money laundering on a big scale. The European Commission has confirmed that Cardovia is one of the main transit centres for several international drug rings. In fact, according to some studies, at least ten percent of the nation's workforce is employed by the criminal sector..."

While Pepe and so many others were polishing shoes or washing car windows, trying to get money to eat, Raul, a young boy just Pepe's age, was on his home computer. He hacked just for the fun of it, and now, after much work, had been able to invade the activities of the President himself! But what he saw that day--the murder of his uncle--affected him more than anything else in his life! He tried to tell his father, but, as a high-ranking military officer, Carlo didn't take much time with his son and brushed him off, even though family members had begun to question where Uncle Rodrigo could be...

Through the efforts of Father Antonio, who was called the slum priest because he had set up a large facility to house more of the children from the streets, together with Atsuko, who was a knight, and so much more, who had lived there since the time that Cardovia had a King ruling the land, we see something big is about to happen...

It was Atsuko who worked successfully to connect Pepe and Raul and began the effort needed to discover what was really happening in the city! But word got out, somehow that either the King or his son was still alive after all this time...

The President was not going to allow the old monarchy to come back! Just as a King once did who was afraid to lose his position, The President called for all children to be rounded up, especially blond boys... Obviously quite controversial, the government said it was a new program to support the children, provide educational benefits to allow them to gain future employment.

What was really happening was that girls as well as boys were placed where men would use them, or they were forced to work and others were just killed. A photographer had caught the latter happening, which soon got in the news, but was it enough?

In my opinion, the real star in this novel was young Raol through his computer skills! Then, too, Pepe gained some additional help once Atsuko had come into his and Po's life and began to...explain...

This was my first time reading the author, but in his own words, he considers this novel his best! If you or your young adult children are enjoying any of the TV programs about storybook legends, I have every confidence they will enjoy this story. The graphic issues included are those that are seen on regular television, but I still recommend parents consider the issues of child trafficking and murder as it relates to your children. I thoroughly enjoyed it myself and would highly recommend it for YA and adults into scifi...


About the Author

Robby lives with his family, sometimes in Thailand, where he was born and his wife is from, sometimes in Ireland, where his dad is from. In Thailand, he teaches English. In Ireland, he does software and other things. In both places, he writes.

By now you all know that I like to roam around and find out more about the books I review. When I read the Dedication at the front of the page, I had that "extra" information I wanted. I think it clearly explains how the author came to write this story... The following video will provide a look at the location that was used as the foundation for the Dockyards Community in the story. I applaud the author for using his knowledge and experience to share with the world about this area of Thailand...

Dedication: to all the children of HDF Mercy Centre, and the residents of the Klong Toey slum community, Bangkok, Thailand

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