Format: Kindle Edition, 304pp
Genre: General Fiction (Will appeal to many different types of reader)
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Summed up in a word: Charming
First Impressions: I have to say that NetGalley is a brilliant concept and I have a lot to thank it for. I regularly get to review awesome books from a wide range of authors. Simon & Schuster were very kind to approve my request for The Impossible Fortress and I am glad they did. Jason Rekulak did a great job crafting a nostalgic and charming throwback piece to the 1980’s. With a familiar/likeable cast of characters and a plot based around coding, video games and obtaining the unobtainable, I had a great time reading this novel. And though the concept has been done before many times , JR does a excellent job of reigniting the genre, and bringing comedy, charm and immaturity along too. You can actually play The Impossible Fortress on the author’s website: http://jasonrekulak.com/game/
Book Synopsis: Until May 1987, fourteen-year-old Billy Marvin of Wetbridge, New Jersey, is a nerd, but a decidedly happy nerd.
Afternoons are spent with his buddies, watching copious amounts of television, gorging on Pop-Tarts, debating who would win in a brawl (Rocky Balboa or Freddy Krueger? Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel? Magnum P.I. Or T.J. Hooker?), and programming video games on his Commodore 64 late into the night.
Then Playboy magazine publishes photos of Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White, Billy meets expert programmer Mary Zelinsky, and everything changes.
A love letter to the 1980s, to the dawn of the computer age, and to adolescence—a time when anything feels possible—The Impossible Fortress will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you remember in exquisite detail what it feels like to love something—or someone—for the very first time. (Official Simon & Schuster Synopsis)
My Review – Billy knows nothing other than his Commadore 64, but he is about to learn about Mary and she has a lot to teach him.
I am only 26 so I can’t really sit here and talk about personal nostalgia but I do hope that authors write books like this about the late 90’s when I get to the nostalgic period of my life. Billy Marvin is 14 years old, and has already begun to code his very own video games on recently released, Commodore 64.
His new game The Impossible Fortress is his crown jewel, but it needs a lot of work to be considered excellent. Other than that, Billy is your everyday teen, hanging with his friends, having a tough time with school and debating pop culture. Billy’s easy going existence is shaken to the core when pictures of his favourite TV personality, Vanna White, have been published in Playboy magazine.
Billy, along with his friends Clark and Alf, is on a mission to score a copy of the adult magazine and sell copies of the pictures to their school mates to make some money. Their failed attempts at buying and then stealing the Playboy lead Billy to Mary Zelinsky, fellow programming addict, and they bond almost immediately.
Another far-fetched plan to steal the magazine from the local shop (owned by Mary’s father) is quickly put together and Billy is sent to extract the code to the alarm system from Mary. Having no interest in manipulating Mary for his own gain, Billy uses his time with Mary to get to know her better. He eventually shows her The Impossible Fortress and they set out to make it better and enter it into a local computer competition.
The Impossible Fortress is a fun novel. It has its sad and emotional moments but all together it is mostly nostalgia for the 80’s, youthful wonder/determination and captures many of the bad decisions we all made at that age.
Luckily Jason Rekulak doesn’t dive too deeply into the world of coding, otherwise he would have lost me completely. I know how to work a computer but as far as coding is concerned, it is a foreign language to me. JR made this easy on the computer novice though, briefly explaining mechanisms and techniques but not dwelling on them. I loved the images and flourishes that were added to give the novel just that little extra bit of character.
The Impossible Fortress is not a unique piece of fiction. It is a throwback novel that is well aware of the various cliches that regularly appear in 80’s fiction. JR has treated the 80’s with the dignity it deserves, and thought a portion of the plot is centred around obtaining nude photos, the tone of the book is mostly innocent, naive and teeny.
Tough themes are present in this novel but for the most part it is comical (the interaction between the boys), light hearted (Billy’s relationship with Mary) and whimsical. Pop culture references are a given in this type of book (I appreciated the M C Escher influences, I love his work!) and they are all really fun nods to an easier time. The first version of E-mail. Fun text adventures. Handmade models. Innuendo. Coded chapter headings. And a cheesy 80’s movie ending 😀
Overall , The Impossible Fortress is a bit of fun. I had a great time reading it (even in the heavier sections of the plot) and I recommend it to all who enjoy light-hearted fiction that shows us we all make mistakes but focusing on what matters to us can result in some pretty awesome adventures. I have given TIF 4/5 stars as I mostly loved the plot and characters. I laughed quite a lot and I look forward to reading more of JR’s work.
Pick up a copy of The Impossible Fortress here: Simon & Schuster/Amazon UK/Goodreads
About the Author: Jason Rekulak is the publisher of Quirk Books, where he has acquired a dozen New York Times bestsellers. Some of his most notable acquisitions at Quirk include Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the YA fantasy novel series Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which has spent five years on the New York Times bestsellers list. Jason lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two children (Official Simon & Schuster Bio)(Photo Copyright: Courtney Apple)