The Impossible Fortress

The Impossible Fortress

by Jason Rekulak

Hardcover

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501144417
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 02/07/2017
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 468,200
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Jason Rekulak is the publisher of Quirk Books, where he has acquired a dozen New York Times bestsellers. Some of his most notable acquisitions at Quirk include Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the YA fantasy novel series Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which has spent five years on the New York Times bestseller list. Jason lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two children.

Read an Excerpt

The Impossible Fortress




  • 10 REM *** WELCOME SCREEN ***

    20 POKE 53281,0:POKE 53280,3

    30 PRINT "{CLR}{WHT}{12 CSR DWN}"

    40 PRINT "{7 SPACES}THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS"

    50 PRINT "{7 SPACES}A GAME BY WILL MARVIN"

    60 PRINT "{9 SPACES}AND MARY ZELINSKY"

    70 PRINT "{2 CSR DWN}"

    80 PRINT "{7 SPACES}(C)1987 RADICAL PLANET"

    90 GOSUB 4000

    95 GOSUB 4500



    MY MOTHER WAS CONVINCED I’d die young. In the spring of 1987, just a few weeks after my fourteenth birthday, she started working nights at the Food World because the late shift paid an extra dollar an hour. I slept alone in an empty house while my mother rang up groceries and fretted over all the terrible things that might happen: What if I choked on a chicken nugget? What if I slipped in the shower? What if I forgot to turn off the stove and the house exploded in a fiery inferno? At ten o’clock every evening, she’d call to make sure I’d finished my homework and locked the front door, and sometimes she’d make me test the smoke alarms, just in case.

    I felt like the luckiest kid in ninth grade. My friends Alf and Clark came over every night, eager to celebrate my newfound freedom. We watched hours of TV, we blended milk shakes by the gallon, we gorged on Pop-Tarts and pizza bagels until we made ourselves sick. We played marathon games of Risk and Monopoly that dragged on for days and always ended with one angry loser flipping the board off the table. We argued about music and movies; we had passionate debates over who would win in a brawl: Rocky Balboa or Freddy Krueger? Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel? Magnum P.I. or T. J. Hooker or MacGyver? Every night felt like a slumber party, and I remember thinking the good times would never end.

    But then Playboy published photographs of Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White, I fell head over heels in love, and everything started to change.

    Alf found the magazine first, and he sprinted all the way from Zelinsky’s newsstand to tell us about it. Clark and I were sitting on the sofa in my living room, watching the MTV Top 20 Video Countdown, when Alf came crashing through the front door.

    “Her butt’s on the cover,” he gasped.

    “Whose butt?” Clark asked. “What cover?”

    Alf collapsed onto the floor, clutching his sides and out of breath. “Vanna White. The Playboy. I just saw a copy, and her butt’s on the cover!”

    This was extraordinary news. Wheel of Fortune was one of the most popular shows on television, and hostess Vanna White was the pride of our nation, a small-town girl from Myrtle Beach who rocketed to fame and fortune by flipping letters in word puzzles. News of the Playboy photos had already made supermarket tabloid headlines: The SHOCKED AND HUMILIATED VANNA claimed the EXPLICIT IMAGES were taken years earlier and most definitely not for the pages of Playboy. She filed a $5.2 million lawsuit to stop their publication, and now—after months of rumors and speculation—the magazine was finally on newsstands.

    “It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen,” Alf continued. He climbed onto a chair and pantomimed Vanna’s cover pose. “She’s sitting on a windowsill, like this? And she’s leaning outside. Like she’s checking the weather? Only she’s not wearing pants!”

    “That’s impossible,” Clark said.

    The three of us all lived on the same block, and over the years we’d learned that Alf was prone to exaggeration. Like the time he claimed John Lennon had been assassinated by a machine gun. On top of the Empire State Building.

    “I swear on my mother’s life,” Alf said, and he raised his hand to God. “If I’m lying, she can get run over by a tractor trailer.”

    Clark yanked down his arm. “You shouldn’t say stuff like that,” he said. “Your mother’s lucky she’s still alive.”

    “Well, your mother’s like McDonald’s,” Alf snapped. “She satisfies billions and billions of customers.”

    “My mother?” Clark asked. “Why are you dragging my mother into this?”

    Alf just talked over him. “Your mother’s like a hockey goalie. She changes her pads after three periods.” He had an encyclopedic knowledge of Your Mother jokes, and he unleashed them at the slightest provocation. “Your mother’s like a Japanese steakhouse—”

    Clark flung a pillow across the living room, hitting Alf square in the face. Enraged, Alf threw it back twice as hard, missing Clark and toppling my glass of Pepsi. Fizzy foam and soda went sloshing all over the carpet.

    “Shit!” Alf exclaimed, scrambling to clean up the mess. “I’m sorry, Billy.”

    “It’s all right,” I said. “Just grab some paper towels.”

    There was no point in making a big deal. It’s not like I was going to ditch Alf and Clark for a bunch of new and more considerate friends. Nine months ago, the three of us arrived in high school and watched our classmates dive into sports or clubs or academics. Yet somehow we just orbited around them, not really fitting in anywhere.

    I was the tallest boy in ninth grade, but I was not the good kind of tall; I wobbled around school like a baby giraffe, all skinny legs and gangly arms, waiting for the rest of my body to fill in. Alf was shorter, stouter, sweatier, and cursed with the same name of the most popular alien on television—a three-feet-tall puppet with his own NBC sitcom. Their shared resemblance was uncanny. Both Alfs were built like trolls, with big noses, beady eyes, and messy brown hair. Even our teachers joked they were twins.

    Still, for all of our obvious flaws, Alf and I knew we were better off than Clark. Every morning he rolled out of bed looking like a heartthrob in TigerBeat magazine. He was tall and muscular with wavy blond hair, deep blue eyes, and perfect skin. Girls at the mall would see Clark coming and gape openmouthed like he was River Phoenix or Kiefer Sutherland—until they got close enough to see the Claw, and then they quickly looked away. A freakish birth defect had fused the fingers of Clark’s left hand into a pink, crab-like pincer. It was basically useless—he could make it open and close, but it wasn’t strong enough to lift anything bigger or heavier than a magazine. Clark swore that as soon as he turned eighteen, he was going to find a doctor to saw it off, even if it cost a million bucks. Until then, he went through life with his head down and the Claw tucked into a pocket, avoiding attention. We knew Clark was doomed to a life of celibacy—that he’d never have a real flesh-and-blood girlfriend—so he needed the Vanna White Playboy more than anyone.

    “Is she on the centerfold?” he asked.

    “I don’t know,” Alf said. “Zelinsky has it on a rack behind the cash register. Next to the cigarettes. I couldn’t get anywhere near it.”

    “You didn’t buy it?” I asked.

    Alf snorted. “Sure, I just walked up to Zelinsky and asked for a Playboy. And a six-pack. And a crack pipe, too, because why not? Are you crazy?”

    We all knew that buying Playboy was out of the question. It was hard enough buying rock music, what with Jerry Falwell warning of satanic influences, and Tipper Gore alerting parents to explicit lyrics. No shopkeeper in America was going to sell Playboy to a fourteen-year-old boy.

    “Howard Stern says the pictures are incredible,” Clark explained. “He said you see both boobs super close-up. Nipples, milk ducks, the works.”

    “Milk ducks?” I asked.

    “Ducts, with a T,” Clark corrected.

    “The red rings around the nipples,” Alf explained.

    Clark shook his head. “Those are areolas, dummy. The milk duct is the hollow part of the nipple. Where the milk squirts out.”

    “Nipples aren’t hollow,” Alf said.

    “Sure they are,” Clark said. “That’s why they’re sensitive.”

    Alf yanked up his T-shirt, exposing his flabby chest and belly. “What about mine? Are my nipples hollow?”

    Clark shielded his eyes. “Put them away. Please.”

    “I don’t have hollow nipples,” Alf insisted.

    They were always vying to prove which one knew more about girls. Alf claimed authority because he had three older sisters. Clark got all of his information from the ABZ of Love, the weird Danish sex manual he’d found buried in his father’s underwear drawer. I didn’t try to compete with either one of them. All I knew was that I didn’t know anything.

    Eventually seven thirty rolled around and Wheel of Fortune came on. Alf and Clark were still arguing about milk ducts, so I turned the TV volume all the way up. Since we had the house to ourselves, we could be as loud and noisy as we wanted.

    “Look at this studio, filled with glamorous prizes! Fabulous and exciting merchandise!” Every episode started the same way, with announcer Charlie O’Donnell previewing the night’s biggest treasures. “An around-the-world vacation, a magnificent Swiss watch, and a brand-new Jacuzzi hot tub! Over eighty-five thousand dollars in prizes just waiting to be won on Wheel of Fortune!”

    The camera panned the showroom full of luggage and houseboats and food processors. Showing off the merchandise was the greatest prize of all, Vanna White herself, five foot six, 115 pounds, and draped in a $12,000 chinchilla fur coat. Alf and Clark stopped bickering, and we all leaned closer to the screen. Vanna was, without doubt, the most beautiful woman in America. Sure, you could argue that Michelle Pfeiffer had nicer eyes and Kathleen Turner had better legs and Heather Locklear had the best overall body. But we worshipped at the altar of the Girl Next Door. Vanna White had a purity and innocence that elevated her above the rest.

    Clark shifted closer to me and tapped my knee with the Claw. “I’m going to Zelinsky’s tomorrow,” he said. “I want to see this cover for myself.”

    I said, “I’ll come with you,” but I never took my eyes off the screen.

  • Reading Group Guide

    This reading group guide for The Impossible Fortress includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Jason Rekulak. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
    .
    Introduction

    May, 1987. Ronald Reagan is in the White House. Prince and Madonna are on the radio. And Playboy has just published scandalous photos of Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White.

    For 14-year-old computer geek Billy Marvin, the magazine is a sort of holy grail—full of powerful secrets but impossible to attain. So Billy and his friends hatch an elaborate scheme to break into a neighborhood newsstand and steal it.

    There’s just one catch: to complete the caper, Billy needs to learn the alarm passcode from the shopkeeper’s daughter, Mary Zelinsky. Smart, spirited, and funny, Mary proves to be the best computer programmer Billy has ever met—even better than Billy himself. He soon finds himself falling head over heels in love, all while planning a burglary that’s increasingly dangerous and increasingly beyond his control.

    The Impossible Fortress is a hilarious debut that explores the confusing realities of adolescence—from first loves to the expectations of friendship—all while celebrating old-school computer programming, 1980s pop culture, and life before the Internet

    Topics & Questions for Discussion

    1. Games play a significant role in The Impossible Fortress, and throughout the novel, the characters play real and metaphorical games with one another. Give some examples. How do Mary and Billy use games to communicate? Why might they find it easier to talk through games than in real life?

    2. The protagonist of the novel is known as “Billy” to his mother and friends, but identifies himself as “Will” to Mary and her father, and to players of The Impossible Fortress. Why do you think he uses variations of his name?

    3. Billy is intelligent enough to program his own computer games, but his grades are abysmal. Why do you think he struggles in school? Do you know any people who struggled in high school? What are they doing now?

    4. Describe Billy’s interactions with Principal Hibble. Do you think he has Billy’s best interests at heart? What did you think of Hibble’s reaction after Billy says his goal is to make video games and start his own company? In chapter 9, Billy says “[Hibble] was right. I knew no college would ever want me—but that was okay, because I didn’t want them.” Why do you think Billy feels this way?

    5. After Billy is suspended from school in chapter 9, his mother returns his computer to him telling him, “You promise you’re not playing Pac-Man? . . . Then get to work.” Were you surprised by her change of heart? What motivates her decision?

    6. In chapter 3, Billy says “Even though [Alf] and Clark were my best friends, I hadn’t told them about my secret plan to grow up and make video games for a living.” Why is Billy reticent to share his dream with his friends? Describe their friendship. Are they supportive of each other? In what ways?

    7. Discuss the structure of The Impossible Fortress. What is the effect of beginning each chapter with a passage of computer code? Did these passages deepen your understanding of the story? In what ways?

    8. Explain the significance of the title. What “impossible fortresses” do the characters encounter within the novel? Did you notice any similarities between The Impossible Fortress video game and the plan to break into Zelinsky’s store? What about the plan to enter Mary’s school?

    9. In chapter 20, Mary tells Billy, “If you want to know the truth, I don’t have a lot of friends right now.” Why does Billy find this so hard to believe? What did you think of Mary? Did you learn anything that might explain Mary’s current social status?

    10. In chapter 24, after Billy is brought to the police station, he is eager to tell the police “[My] only crime was buying a dirty magazine . . . Everything else could be blamed on Tyler and Rene. They were the real bad guys.” Did you agree with Billy? Is he culpable for what takes place in Zelinsky’s store? Explain your answer. What would you have done if you were in Billy’s position?

    11. There are three different explanations for why Tyler is fired from Zelinsky’s store: Mary’s original explanation, Tyler’s explanation, and Mary’s revised explanation. Which story did you find most believable? How would you explain the discrepancies among the different versions? What do their lies (or omissions) say about the respective characters?

    12. At the police station in chapter 25, Zelinsky tells Billy that Mary was “fooling [him] right back. [He doesn’t] know her at all. And [he’s] too dumb to even realize it.” What secrets is Mary hiding from Billy? Did you find any of them shocking? Does learning Mary’s secret change your understanding of Tyler’s actions? If so, how?

    13. In chapter 26, Billy says, “After passing most of my freshman year in relative anonymity, I’d finally made a name for myself.” How has Billy succeeded in “making a name for himself”? Discuss his classmates’ reactions. Do you think their opinions are justified? Why or why not?

    14. Early in the novel, we learn that Billy has never met his father. In chapter 12, he tells Mary, “I wish I knew why he left. That’s one thing I’ve never understood.” Do any of the events in this book offer Billy a new perspective on his parents’ relationship?

    Enhance Your Book Club

    1. The Impossible Fortress has drawn comparisons to classic eighties teen comedies like Say Anything, Can’t Buy Me Love, and the films of John Hughes. Watch a few and discuss them with your book club. In what ways does The Impossible Fortress pay homage to those films? Do you think The Impossible Fortress would make a good movie? Who would you cast as Billy and Mary?

    2. In chapter 12, Mary explains to Billy that her mother created a mixtape in the waning days of her illness and that the “track list was a sort of poem.” Discuss the songs on the mixtape. What messages is Mary’s mother sending with them? If you created a mixtape for a loved one, what songs would you put on it and why?

    3. In chapter 4 when Billy tells Mary, “I didn’t think girls liked to program,” she tells him that “girls practically invented programming” and provides several examples, including Jean Bartik (who did pioneering work on ENIAC, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) and legendary video game designer Roberta Williams. Learn more about these women and discuss their contributions with your book club. Were you surprised, like Billy, to learn that women played such a large role in the field of computer science?

    4. To learn more about Jason Rekulak and play a version of The Impossible Fortress game, visit his official site at jasonrekulak.com.

    A Conversation with Jason Rekulak

    Jason Rekulak was born and raised in New Jersey. He has worked for many years at Quirk Books, an independent book publisher, where he edits a variety of fiction and nonfiction. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two children.

    Congratulations on the release of your debut novel. You’ve spent many years working as an editor for Quirk Books, an independent press based in Philadelphia. What made you decide to write your own novel?

    Well, this is the first novel I’ve published, but it’s the fifth novel I’ve written. The first four are locked away in a closet! I’ve never shared them with anyone, because I could never really get them to work. Each book was its own unique exercise in frustration. But in every case the problem came down to story—I couldn’t get the story to feel (for lack of a better word) dramatically satisfying. I hope that doesn’t sound too precious or pretentious. What I’m trying to say is, those early books had interesting characters and interesting ideas and passages of writing that I just loved. But the stories were a mess.

    When I started writing The Impossible Fortress I decided to change gears and write something more autobiographical; I wanted to write about coming of age in the 1980s, my friends and family, my early interests in computer programming, and my teenage pop culture obsessions. And my big eureka moment was realizing that I could put all of this personal, autobiographical material in the framework of a comic heist novel, that I could use all the beats of a (fictional) heist story to anchor the autobiographical material.

    So was Vanna White one of those teenage pop culture obsessions?

    I worry I will have to answer this question a million times! The answer is no, not really. I mean, I love Wheel of Fortune and Vanna White is an American icon. But I never risked life and limb to see those photographs. I chose the magazine because I thought it was a funny MacGuffin to get the plot rolling, and a funny holy grail for three teenage boys to obsess over. And I loved that the scandal tied the novel to the very specific month of May 1987. Since much of the story concerns creation and reinvention and second chances, I really wanted to set it in springtime.

    The Impossible Fortress is intricately plotted and filled with twists. Did you know the ending of the book when you began writing? When you finished writing it, why didn’t you lock it in the closet with the other novels?

    I outlined everything before I started writing. Certain scenes shifted and moved along the way, but I always had the heist structure to guide me, and it kept things from moving around too much. For example, I always knew the boys would learn about the magazine on page one, and the heist would happen halfway through the novel, and of course they had to fail spectacularly.

    I spent about eighteen months writing the book. With my four previous attempts, I didn’t really “finish” the books so much as I abandoned them. There were always problems with the stories that I couldn’t resolve; eventually I would throw up my hands in frustration and quit. But with The Impossible Fortress, I reached a point where everything was working the way I had intended. I can still remember the night I ran out of things to fix. It was way past midnight, and I remember looking up from the manuscript and thinking to myself, “Maybe this means I’m done?”

    I decided to approach some literary agents and get their opinions. This was tricky, because I knew several literary agents (through my job at Quirk Books) and I didn’t want to muddy the waters by approaching any of them. So I purposefully approached someone I didn’t know, an agent named Doug Stewart. He had represented two novels that I love, The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. Doug responded favorably to the book, so we were off and running.

    Did you listen to any eighties music while writing the book?

    Yes, and thank goodness for Spotify. I had a ridiculous playlist that was full of cheesy eighties pop songs—“The Final Countdown” by Europe, “Something So Strong” by Crowded House, etc. I was very careful to keep my Spotify settings on private so friends wouldn’t think that I’d lost my mind, because I never told anyone I was writing this novel, and I listened to this playlist constantly. Over time I built a second playlist of really good eighties covers, and these were a good source of inspiration as well. Check them out at the end of this interview.

    Is there anything that you have found particularly gratifying about publishing The Impossible Fortress? If so, what?

    It’s great to have an editor who responds to my work with energy and enthusiasm, and—better yet—offers suggestions for improving it. Marysue Rucci at Simon & Schuster went through this book paragraph by paragraph and showed me many ways to make it better. She also alerted me to connections among the characters that were on the page but off my radar, if you know what I mean. And I’ve been lucky to receive the same kind of careful and personal attention from many other people on her team—the copy editors, the designers, the marketing and publicity team, the sales people; it’s a long list of people. After years of late nights working alone at the kitchen table, I suddenly feel like I have an army of cheerleaders. It’s extremely gratifying.

    As someone who has been an author and a publisher, do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

    If you walk into my office at Quirk Books you will see a famous quotation from the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson: “Your first ten thousand photographs are your worst.” I love this quotation; I love what it says about patience and mastery and putting in the hours, and I think it applies to every job at Quirk Books and every creative endeavor—not just photography but acting, writing, music, anything. You need to appreciate the magnitude of these endeavors. And understand that overnight success stories are few and far between. Maybe you’ll get lucky, maybe you were born a prodigy, but chances are you’ll have to grind it out with the rest of us. And I love that quotation because it shows you the light at the end of the tunnel: I mean, as soon as you finish taking those first ten thousand photographs, you know you’re going to be a vastly improved photographer. And you can start today; you can start right now!

    So my advice for aspiring novelists is to get busy writing—and stay focused on your writing. And take your time. The Internet has encouraged a rush to publishing (partly because of new technologies that eliminate so-called “gatekeepers” and allow for self-publishing). I advise writers to take all the time they need, to be patient, to plan their debuts carefully, and to make sure they’re launching their careers with the right book. You only get one debut, and it’s going to cast a long shadow over everything you try to sell going forward.

    Billy’s love of computer programming and computer games is infectious. Was this based on your own interests?

    Absolutely. Like Billy, I was a self-taught computer programmer at age fourteen. I had a decent grasp of BASIC and Pascal but I found machine language to be impenetrable. I created all kinds of primitive arcade games on my Commodore 64, and I dreamed of running my own video game company. I was particularly obsessed with text adventures like Zork, which were advertised as “interactive fiction.” (There’s an example of interactive fiction in chapter 13 of The Impossible Fortress.) I entered college as a computer science major, naively hoping I might find some way to write interactive fiction for a living. It took me a few semesters to realize I didn’t need computers to tell stories, that I could just use plain old pencil and paper! So I changed my major from Computer Science to English, immersed myself in books and literature, and pursued a career in publishing.

    Were there any authors or novels that were inspirations to you? Which ones and why?

    The success of Ernest Cline’s terrific Ready Player One definitely gave me the confidence to write about my own 1980s pop culture obsessions. I’ve always loved Anne Tyler, and anytime I need to feel inspired, I will pick up Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant or The Accidental Tourist or The Amateur Marriage; I will open to any page at random and just start reading. She’s incredible. I’m also a big fan of Tom Perrotta. He grew up in my part of New Jersey and he mined his autobiography for some terrific novels, which inspired me to try to do the same.

    Donald Westlake was the master of the comic crime caper and I re-read a bunch of his Dortmunder novels (The Hot Rock is my favorite) while thinking about Billy’s heist. Stephen King’s novella The Body is pretty obvious influence. I remember enjoying the story in a very literal way at age fourteen, and then rereading it fifteen years later and discovering more nuanced observations about class and creativity and youthful ambition—all topics I wanted to address in The Impossible Fortress.

    Finally, I spent most of my high school years watching and rewatching all of those John Hughes teen comedies—Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—all very funny, exuberant, bighearted stories. That’s definitely the tone I was going for. I figured that any comic novel about teenagers in the 1980s ought to “feel” like a John Hughes movie, you know?

    What else did you like about those movies?

    Well, before John Hughes, there were two kinds of teen movies. You had teen sex comedies like Porky’s and teen slasher movies like Friday the 13th. And in both of these genres, the male characters always had the same objective: they just wanted sex. At any cost. That was pretty much it! And the girls were simply objects to be conquered; their role in the story was to take off their shirts or get murdered (and sometimes both).

    And to be clear, I enjoyed these movies as much as the next fourteen-year-old boy. Porky’s and Friday the 13th were enormous box office successes; they both spawned multiple sequels. But I could never really identify with the characters. I mean, I was fascinated by girls, but I wasn’t looking for sex. I was fourteen years old! I just wanted girls to talk to me!

    So then along comes John Hughes with these teen characters who seem more much more detailed and developed. They’re having real conversations about real hopes and fears. The Breakfast Club is just five teenagers talking—for 97 minutes! And at age fourteen it really resonated with me; I felt like this filmmaker was taking me seriously. So I started seeking out all of his movies (and listening to all of the sound tracks, which turned me on to a bunch of great new-wave bands). I wish he’d lived longer and made more movies.

    Are you working on anything now? Can you tell us about it?

    Yes, I am working on a new book, and all I’m prepared to say is that it won’t be set in the 1980s. I’ve had tremendous fun writing about Phil Collins and Vanna White and 8-bit computers. But now that The Impossible Fortress is finished, I’m eager to write about the twenty-first century!

    The Impossible Fortress May 1987 (Warts-and-All) Playlist

    While writing this novel, I wanted to revisit all of the pop music from May 1987, so I put together a list of the month’s most popular songs. I am not recommending that anyone listen to this playlist—some of these songs have aged terribly!—but I am including it here as a matter of historical record. The songs are arranged by their rank on the Billboard Hot 100 list from the week of May 9, 1987. Listen at: bit.ly/FortressSideA

    1. “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” by Cutting Crew

    2. “Looking for a New Love” by Jody Watley

    3. “With Or Without You” by U2

    4. “La Isla Bonita” by Madonna

    5. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House

    7. “Heat of the Night” by Bryan Adams

    10. “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” by Aretha Franklin and George Michael

    11. “Talk Dirty to Me” by Poison

    14. “You Keep Me Hangin On” by Kim Wilde

    22. “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi

    26. “Walking Down Your Street” by Bangles

    29. “Head to Toe” by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam

    34. “In Too Deep” by Genesis

    35. “Heartbreak Beat” by Psychedelic Furs

    38. “Lean on Me” by Club Nouveau

    40. “Just to See Her” by Smokey Robinson

    42. “Lessons in Love” by Level 42

    55. “Let’s Wait Awhile” by Janet Jackson

    61. “Something So Strong” by Crowded House

    65. “The Final Countdown” by Europe

    71. “Heart and Soul” by T’Pau

    93. “Only in My Dreams” by Debbie Gibson

    The Impossible Fortress Eighties Covers Playlist

    I also played around with this list, a collection of eighties hits covered by more contemporary artists. There are some fun pairings here. Listen at: bit.ly/FortressSideB

    1. “Just Can’t Get Enough” by Nouvelle Vague

    2. “Handle with Care” by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins

    3. “Gone Daddy Gone” by Gnarls Barkley

    4. “The Boys of Summer” by The Ataris

    5. “Hold Me Now” by Duncan Sheik

    6. “In Between Days” by Ben Folds

    7. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by STRFKR

    8. “Heaven” by Meg Birch

    9. “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” by The Postal Service

    10. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Taken by Trees

    11. “I’m on Fire” by Electrelane

    12. “Addicted to Love” by Florence + the Machine

    13. “Kiss on My List” by The Bird and the Bee

    14. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by The Wind and the Wave

    15. “Save a Prayer” by Eagles of Death Metal

    16. “Head Over Heels” by New Found Glory

    Customer Reviews

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    The Impossible Fortress 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Very fun to read for any kid who brought in the 80s or 90s!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Great book!
    Anonymous 4 months ago
    Can’t wait to get the full book? This was fun for a guy that lived before that age.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Remarkably inventive. ~*~LEB~*~
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Good story with likeable characters. Nice walk through memory lane for those of us who grew up in the burgeoning computer era. Good for teens on up. Enjoyed it very much.
    KateUnger More than 1 year ago
    The Impossible Fortress is absolutely adorable in all its geek-romance glory. Billy and his best friends, Alf and Clark, are obsessed with Vanna White. It’s 1987, and they need to get their hands on the new issue of Playboy magazine because it has naked pictures of America’s sweetheart. They hatch a plan that involves buttering up the store owner’s daughter, Mary. Billy is selected for that job, but maybe he doesn’t want to use Mary. Mary is the only other person who’s interested in programming computer games like Billy is. And when she tells him about a computer game competition for students, run by Billy’s idol, he cannot resist teaming up with her to create a killer game, The Impossible Fortress. Under the cover of getting the alarm code from Mary, Billy begins spending all of his time with her. The story is told from Billy’s point of view. I loved him instantly. I have a sort spot for geeks. Mary is smart and kind and dealing with an overprotective father. Her mother died a few years back, and her dad cannot help but continuing playing her mix tape every day in the store. I liked Mary and her dad right away as well. This book was just plain cute. I read it very quickly. I wanted to see what would happen between Billy and Mary. Things didn’t quite go as planned. People were hurt. But ultimately it was a great book. Immediately after finishing the eARC, I reserved the audiobook from Overdrive, so my husband could read it as well. (He only listens to books.) It should be coming in soon, and I will listen to it again as well since it’s been a couple of months now since I read it. If you’re into geeky romances, check this one out. You won’t be disappointed. http://opinionatedbooklover.com/review-the-impossible-fortress-by-jason-rekulak/
    KarenfromDothan More than 1 year ago
    Billy wants to be a video game programmer, but is failing school. Alf, who resembles the TV character of the same name, is a master schemer. Clark is so good looking, but is self conscious of a congenital deformity. The three have been best friends since early childhood, and do everything together. It’s the 1980s, they’re fourteen years old and obsessed with getting hold of a copy of the latest issue of Playboy featuring Vanna White on its cover. I really, really, really liked this one. It’s a highly readable and entertaining book that takes you back to the time when home PCs were a rarity and the video game industry was in its infancy. It’s a funny and smart novel about friendship, first love and following your dreams.
    Twink More than 1 year ago
    I love finding a book that is completely different from my usual reading fare - quirky, funny, heartwarming and just fun to read. The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak is one of those finds. I think it was nostalgia that sold me on reading The Impossible Fortress. Set in the late 1980's in New Jersey, we meet a trio of fourteen year olds determined to get their hands on the latest Playboy - featuring Vanna White. That's the premise but there is so much more to the tale. It's a story of friendship, growing up, first love, dreams, discoveries and yes - disappointments. And who doesn't remember those years - good and bad? Rekulak's trio - Billy, Alf and Clark - are wonderful characters - they're a misfit bunch, but eminently likeable. As adults, we can easily see that their schemes are likely to fail, but their hopes and enthusiasm are contagious. Computer programming is in it's infancy in the 1980's. Billy and Mary (yes, there's a girl involved) are fascinated by this new technology. Remember the Commodore 64? There's coding at the beginning of every chapter - take the time to read it - Rekulak cleverly ties the coding to the story. Engaging, entertaining and oh so eighties.
    BlueEyeBooks More than 1 year ago
    Thank you to Simon and Schuster for gifting me with a copy of The Impossible Fortress in exchange for an honest review! I read this in a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon and it was quite lovely.  It's one of those books that you can relax with a smile at without worrying that you'll start to cry in public or things will get too angsty or heavy for a nice day which I appreciated.  While this is an asset, it also limited my reaction of the book to just that: a nice book.  Let me explain what I mean: 1.  The plot.  I've never read a book that focused so much on computer programming, especially back in the days when computers were just becoming available for public use.  This I found especially fascinating.  Consequently, I found the plot very interesting: following Billy and Mary's efforts to perfect their game as well as Billy's friends effort to steal a Playboy magazine.  It was quite the combination of storylines and I found it was a good mix of silly and serious.  While watching the boys try to get a hold of a copy of the magazine, I was reminded of the time period and how different things were.  It's quite fascinating to think about how much and how little has changed since the 1980s.  Getting back to the plot, I enjoyed it and the pace was perfect.  I never felt like moving from my chair and picking it back up later.  I also immensely enjoyed how things turned out in the end.  It left a smile on my face. 2.  The characters.  The characters are also quite lovely and I enjoyed getting to know them.  You really start to feel for them but like I said in the beginning, I was never worried that it would turn more towards the sad side.  It was more of a coming-of-age story which helped give the characters a lift.  I truly appreciate the fact that the author incorporated a female programmer as a main character and didn't make a big deal out of it.  I also loved how he had said character point out that programming is not an exclusive men's field.  It's such a stigma (that's lessening with the years but it still very present) and I hope by making it more normal in popular culture, things will change.  I also liked how the author maneuvered the characters so they told half truths and everything that came out of their mouths was tainted with their perspective.  I think that's so important to realize that everyone has a different perspective. 3.  The atmosphere/time period.  This is another large element of the book.  The time period plays such a role in the plot and how the characters interact with each other.  I wasn't alive and noticing things in the 1980s so I don't have an intimate knowledge with the time period (other than the music) but I got a very comprehensive look with this book. 4.  The 'niceness'.  I want to address this in it's own section because it requires a bit of explaining.  Like I was saying at the top, I didn't rate this more in the 5 star range because of it's niceness.  I think we all know those books that are great and you enjoyed them but ultimately, they didn't challenge you in any way or change you.  I'm trying to be more honest with myself when it comes to ratings and honestly, this book didn't do those things which is what I want to get out of a 5 star book.  That's not to say it couldn't be a 5 star for someone else.  It's just not mine. The Final Verdict: This is quite a fascinating flashback novel looking at the dawn of computer programming that's wonderfully blended with a coming-of-age journey. 4 star
    literarymadness More than 1 year ago
    As a huge fan of 80's movies and the evolution of technology, this story embraces all the funny of adolescent boys and the complications of high school with the fun look back at the fledgling success of home computers. Even when most of us don’t understand all the coding and binary language used throughout this novel, if you were alive during this era, you can still remember the complexity of the early machines and life before a graphical user interface. The relationships in this story sweet and simple, yet they still throw you the occasional curveball. You’ve got your funny, crass, “chunky” kid, the nervous heartthrob, the nerd, the bad boy, and the token girl. All these characters with the classic buildup to a contest, pubescent love, parental strife, small town adventure and trouble, combines to create an epic blockbuster.