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October 02, 2017

The Impossible Fortress

The Impossible Fortress

By: Jason Rekulak

I don’t often browse the stacks looking for a new book to read. Many times, I have a specific title I’m looking for, and I go right for it. But once in a blue moon, the cover of a book will catch my eye, I’ll pick it up and find myself happily surprised. This is what happened with a book I found on the New Materials shelf: Jason Rekulak’s debut novel, The Impossible Fortress.

I grabbed it because the book jacket touched on my interests (80’s pop culture, computer games, etc.) but I did not have any expectations as to what I would find inside. I thought it might be vaguely science fiction, which also would appeal to me. When I read it, I was consistently reminded of two things: Ernest Cline’s book, Ready Player One, and the Netflix show, Stranger Things. Quickly, I found out that it was more realistic, not set in an imaginary distant place, but in a believable 1980s.

Billy is a 14-year old boy who loves computer programming, especially designing video games. When he and his friends come up with a plan to (allegedly) steal some illicit material—a certain magazine—Billy has to infiltrate the shop that houses the magazine. To get closer to the shop, Billy strikes up a friendship with the daughter of the shop’s owner as the two share an appreciation for developing video games. The more he works, it becomes evident that his game and ultimately his friendship are far more important to him than the magazine. But with the heist already scheduled, Billy is put in the middle of his friends and the girl. The book turned out to be more adventure and romantic comedy than sci-fi.

The book subverts many norms that would be expected in a typical coming-of-age novel. Billy’s relationship with Mary is not as conventional as would be expected. It also does not lean too heavily into the nostalgia of the time period. Too often, I have found a book rely on casual drops of references as a way to seem relatable. Instead, the setting of this book is incidental to the plot and not the main driving force, making it a stronger novel.

Again, the book was highly reminiscent of Ready Player One (but better) and Stranger Things (but not as good). If you find yourself eagerly awaiting Steven Spielberg’s film based on Cline’s novel or season two of the hit Netflix show, you absolutely must read The Impossible Fortress. I promise a very enjoyable read that will definitely tide you over.

Review By:  Joseph Wooley