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/“
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.