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The Impossible Fortress: A Novel Hardcover – February 7, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of February 2017: The Impossible Fortress is one of those books—one of those rare and special few where, once you have finished it, you want all your friends to read it immediately. This is especially true if you grew up in the 1980s, because The Impossible Fortress is a coming-of-age story tucked inside a love letter to that strange and wonderful decade. The novel is set in 1987 when computer games had only recently entered our homes, Jolt cola (the predecessor of modern energy drinks) was still a thing, and Playboy magazine had countless 14-year-old boys across the country trying to get their hands on a copy of the Vanna White (of Wheel of Fortune fame) issue. Billy Martin and his two best friends are three such boys, and their pursuit of the epic magazine leads them to the local office supply store, computer whiz Mary Zelinsky, and a hero’s quest to save a princess. Author Jason Rekulak’s ability to conjure powerful adolescent feelings of friendship, first love, and that difficult place where the two collide, is impressive. Laughter comes from page after page, and some clever surprises too—all of it with a 1980s mixed tape running in the background. --Seira Wilson, The Amazon Book Review
* MOST ANTICIPATED NOVELS OF 2017 SELECTION BY * ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY * BUSTLE * INSTYLE.COM *
PRAISE FOR THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS
"Revel in 1987 nostalgia in this debut about a teen boy, a coveted copy of Playboy, and a computer-nerd girl."
"Need a sanctuary book right about now? Maybe a retro escapist read about simpler times that lets you laugh out loud, not overthink, indulge in nostalgia? Well, here you go. The Impossible Fortress is a quirky, endearing, full embrace of the late ‘80s. Set in those promise-filled, early years of the Computer Age, its clever plot is driven by surging teen hormones and fumbling first love, by bad adolescent choices and a struggle for redemption."
"Full of clueless boys, consequence-free adventures and generous helpings of adolescent humor, all served up with a kind smile...you relish the book’s countless callbacks to the 1980s."
“Infused with 1980s music, pop culture, and plenty of the BASIC computer programming language, Rekulak’s debut offers a charmingly vintage take on geek love, circa 1987 in New Jersey… Rekulak’s novel will have readers of a certain age waxing nostalgic about Space Invaders and humming Hall and Oates, but it’s still a fun ride that will appeal to all.”
“Rekulak layers in nostalgic eighties references, like a mixtape created by Mary’s recently deceased mother, an oblique nod to Beetlejuice, and the wacky group of misfit friends with a 'really good' plan. Despite all that, in the end the plot manages to magically subvert the time period while also paying homage to it. An unexpected retro delight.”
—Booklist (starred review)
"Set against the backdrop of 1980s New Jersey, Jason Rekulak's charming coming-of-age debut about a 14-year-old computer nerd who schemes to steal an issue of Playboy from a local store and meets a girl who can code in the process will invoke pangs of nostalgia."
"A sweet and surprising story about young love."
"There are few things in this life more satisfying than a book that truly grasps what it's like to be a nerd—and what makes it so much damn fun. The Impossible Fortress is about video games, first crushes, idols and adolescence—and it's a thoroughly escapist joy in its most pure form."
"Fans of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One — or anyone who grew up as a nerd in the ‘80s — will be sure to find something to love in Philadelphia-based author Rekulak’s debut novel, about a 14-year-old Commodore 64 aficionado whose life changes when he encounters a Playboy photo spread and meets a computer programmer."
"This debut novel by the publisher of Quirk Books feels like a sort of spiritual prequel to Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, with a young protagonist adrift in a sea of pop culture and new technology, trying to figure out his future."
"The Impossible Fortress strikes the perfect balance of strangeness and relatability; it’s nostalgic in all the right ways. It reminds us that sometimes relationships are like video games, where small actions have big consequences and we have to fail a few times before we succeed."
"This book is Stranger Things meets Halt and Catch Fire, to be enjoyed by those (like me) who have a soft spot for 8-bit games and the teenage antics of a more innocent time. "
"A love letter to the 1980s, adolescence, technology, nerd-dom, and Vanna White, The Impossible Fortress will make you laugh and remind you of how much is possible when you're fourteen."
—David Ebershoff, bestselling author of The Danish Girl
"The Impossible Fortress reads like a newly-unearthed Amblin movie—a sweet, funny and moving tribute to nerds and misfits everywhere, set in a magical time when cassettes were king, phones had cords and Playboy was the pinnacle of smut. Fans of Ernie Cline and Chuck Klosterman—this is your next favorite book."
—Seth Grahame-Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
"The Impossible Fortress is hilarious, compulsively readable and surprisingly poignant, a teenage caper novel set in a time where U2 could still be considered a one-hit wonder and pornography was as close and as unobtainable to a 14-year-old boy as a Playboy magazine kept behind the counter at an office supply store. I absolutely loved it."
—Carolyn Parkhurst, New York Times bestselling author of The Dogs of Babel and Harmony
"Part love story, part coming-of-age tale, and part heist picture, The Impossible Fortress is an endlessly clever novel about friendship, heartache and computers—all rendered with the bright colors and buoyant spirit of Q*bert for the Commodore 64."
—Ben H. Winters, author of the Edgar-award winning Last Policeman trilogy, and Underground Airlines
"A tenderly crafted and charmingly spot-on debut novel....surprising and nostalgic in the best possible way."
—Denise Kiernan, New York Times bestselling author of The Girls of Atomic City
“Touching and gut-wrenching; an uplifting tribute to anyone who was ever a high school outcast. Trust me, you’re welcome.”
—Andrew Smith, award-winning author of Grasshopper Jungle and Winger
“Anyone who was a nerdy 14-year-old in the mid ‘80s (like me) will love this hilarious and nostalgic book."
—John Boyne, author of The Heart’s Invisible Furies
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I’m a software engineer, and I never worked with the version of BASIC shown in the book, so all the PEEKs and POKEs were unfamiliar. But I caught enough to see that the bits of code at the start of each chapter gave plot hints, which was a fun little Easter egg. (In 1987 I was in my twenties and developing software at Boeing, so having one of the software competition judges be from Boeing was also amusing for me.)
As for the heist storyline, it was so obvious the kids were being used and I couldn’t help cringing at how that kept going over their heads, but it was also pretty true to life for 14-year-olds. Likewise the fat shaming and some homophobic slurs—unfortunately fairly typical for teenagers of the time. While I didn’t really care for that, I also accept that 1987 characters aren’t going to behave with 2017 values.
It's 1987... and a trio of unpopular teenage boys are on a mission to get their hands on the Vanna White issue of Playboy to sell copies of the photos to their classmates. Their treasure hunt is littered with mishaps, thievery, and first love.
It is an enjoyable story, and the romance is sweet but a little awkward as most first loves are. This reads very YA, though all the 80s references suggests it was meant to trigger nostalgia for those who grew up in this era. I gave this book 4 stars initially, but the story, is derailed more than a little bit by an implausible plot twist that unfortuntely leaves an unpleasant feeling that lasts the remainder of the book.