Title: The Impossible Fortress
Author: Jason Rekulak
Blurb (taken from Goodreads):
A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.
Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.
Do you remember your first love?
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.
Bonus content: Play the “The Impossible Fortress” video game at http://www.jasonrekulak.com/game/
The moment that a book is marketed as similar to Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One”, I am hooked. Really, it’s embarrassing how quickly I requested this book. Although it’s not a dystopian novel, and it’s not about VR, I can see some similarities such as an abundance of pop culture references and geeky characters obsessed with video games.
The only problem with books about video games is that a reader who enjoys gaming will naturally wish the game existed. After finishing this book, I logged in Jason Rekulak’s website and got the play The Impossible Fortress, and this little extra just made the book much more special and it just highlights the connection that a good book can have with a video game, and vice versa.
As for the book itself, I found it really good until about 75% in. It takes a turn I didn’t quite expect, and to be perfectly honest, also didn’t love. This plateau continued to an ending that was underwhelming considering the great pace throughout the book.
Nonetheless, the themes and characters are well done – these are 14 year old boys from the 80s, through and through. I figure that reading this book with a bit of a motherly outlook can change how you experience the story — I personally looked past Billy’s faults (because at times you’ll want to metaphorically strangle the little devil) to see all his endearing qualities. I rooted for him and for Mary through the entire book, and I hope you will too.
So overall, this is a good book! I’ll even go as far as saying that if you enjoyed the slower bits of “Ready Player One”, you will definitely enjoy this too.
I’d like to thank Simon & Schuster, as well as Netgalley, for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book will hit the shelves on January 7th, 2017… but the game is live on the website right now. Go play it, and see if it piques your interest enough to read the story of its creation! 😉