Saturday, 11 February 2017

The Impossible Fortress - Jason Rekulak

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.


I just loved this book! Back in the day I had a Spectrum ZX but never really did programming, just got as far as a "for next loop". I did play the type of games that Marvin and Billy write in the book though. This made the book really interesting to me, but I can imagine if you've never played computer games (old school!) or liked code, this may not be your kind of book.

The story all begins when Billy and his friends realise that Playboy magazine has a photo shoot of Vanna White (who hosted the American version of Wheel of Fortune). He and his friends cook up schemes to get a hold of the magazine, which obviously for a trio of 14 year olds is out of their reach. 

The trio reminded me a little of The Goonies film - a band of friends who go through thick and thin together, with some really clever smart guy comments along the way. What they don't realise is that part of their major plan gets to involve Mary Zelinksy, and that she is a programmer. She knows way more than Billy and together they begin to write a computer game - getting him sidetracked from the acquisition of the Playboy magazine.

The magazine storyline takes a little bit of a back seat as other things develop - in more ways than one. It's a funny, evocative glimpse into 1987 and being a 14 year old boy.

The scene where they make their final attempt at getting the magazine was so funny, but also a little tense, as was their final journey to St Agatha's. Very atmospheric - I could really see this book as a film.

You can play the game they wrote at! I even made it into the leader board - not many people have played yet! I realised I really needed a joystick to be able to recreate the experience and get a better score.

I'm giving this book 5 out of 5 stars. My thanks go to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for an advance copy of the book for review.

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