I am constantly on the lookout for any book that might live up to the amazing Ready Player One. And, until now, nothing quite hit the mark. But as soon as I saw Jason Rekulak’s The Impossible Fortress, I knew I needed to read it. What I didn’t know going in was that Rekulak is also the man behind Quirk Books – the home of books like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Which just makes him a bit more awesome in my opinion. And explains why his debut novel was so good!
(From Goodreads) Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.
The Impossible Fortress begins with a magazine…The year is 1987 and Playboy has just published scandalous photographs of Vanna White, from the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune. For three teenage boys—Billy, Alf, and Clark—who are desperately uneducated in the ways of women, the magazine is somewhat of a Holy Grail: priceless beyond measure and impossible to attain. So, they hatch a plan to steal it.
The heist will be fraught with peril: a locked building, intrepid police officers, rusty fire escapes, leaps across rooftops, electronic alarm systems, and a hyperactive Shih Tzu named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Failed attempt after failed attempt leads them to a genius master plan—they’ll swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience store by seducing the owner’s daughter, Mary Zelinsky. It becomes Billy’s mission to befriend her and get the information by any means necessary. But Mary isn’t your average teenage girl. She’s a computer loving, expert coder, already strides ahead of Billy in ability, with a wry sense of humor and a hidden, big heart. But what starts as a game to win Mary’s affection leaves Billy with a gut-wrenching choice: deceive the girl who may well be his first love or break a promise to his best friends.
At its heart, The Impossible Fortress is a tender exploration of young love, true friends, and the confusing realities of male adolescence—with a dash of old school computer programming.
The Impossible Fortress exceeded my expectations! It wasn’t the science fiction, Ready Player One-like book I thought it was, but it had that nostalgic, 80s video game feel, and I loved it. (I was born at the tail-end of the 80s, but my family had a lot of old computers, so I definitely played some of these games growing up.) I like that Rekulak was able to capture the feeling of Ready Player One, but still write a completely different book. It was what I was looking for, even though I wasn’t quite sure what that is.
The characters were adorable, and I found them memorable and engaging. Each character was distinct enough that they didn’t blend together, and I adored their individual quirks. My one small complaint here is that I wish there were more female characters, because I loved Mary. It was nice to see a female character so good with tech (she’s even better than Billy). But I did really like all of the characters, individually and together. I think it was a great cast to tell a fun story.
I also really enjoyed the writing. It fit the story well, and I think the first-person point of view (told from Billy’s perspective) was a great choice. His insecurities were relatable, and his perspective drew me into the story. I also need to mention the twist at the end, because, holy crap, I did not see that coming! I’m pretty good at predicting twists (and there were some clues, now that I think about it), but this one came out of nowhere and changed everything. It made the story less about video games and more about the characters, which was great.
This is more like a 4.5-star book for me. It was so fun to read, and I flew through it in a couple of hours, which I hadn’t done with a book in a long time. I really enjoyed the story and the characters and will 100% be reading anything Rekulak writes in the future.
Overall, I loved this book. It was cute and fun, but also addressed some deeper issues. If you (like me) loved Ready Player One, definitely give this a try! And if you’re looking for a fun, 80s, young adult story, this is a great pick.
The Impossible Fortress will be available in bookstores starting February 7th. You can preorder (or order, depending on when you’re reading this) your copy on Amazon now!
BONUS CONTENT: The Impossible Fortress Game is a real thing, and you can play it here! (And try to beat Rekulak’s high score.)
This book was provided to me by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.