This wistful, witty and carefully crafted YA story will be
enjoyed by anyone who remembers programming the Commodore
64 or being a kid who didn't fit in. THE IMPOSSIBLE
FORTRESS is the name of an early version of a videogame
designed and written by our eponymous hero, Billy Marvin.
He has the idea of an Escher-style mountain of never ending
steps, which the player must ascend, dodging troll guards,
to find and rescue a princess, with three lives. The real
world story as metaphor follows Billy and his two mates
through a series of seemingly impossible and dangerous
quests. Or is the game the metaphor? Decide for yourself.
The other lads, Alf and Clark, are as grossly adolescent
and Playboy-model obsessed as any fourteen year old New
Jersey lads were in 1987. With Billy's mom working all
day, they hang out at his home, and devise a plot to
acquire, then sell or rent out the girlie pics in Playboy.
First they have to get the magazine, and to this end Billy
starts spending time in the stationery store, where an
awkward, plump girl called Mary Zelinsky is busy teaching
herself to program her dad's Commodore 64. Finally, someone
Billy can talk to about his game. They start to improve the
code to enter a contest. But if Mary knew that the boys
were hatching an elaborate robbery plot it would be game
Billy is tongue-tied in front of adults, because kids were.
Kids never spoke back and never spoke up. Adults were right
and telling them anything personal was too embarrassing.
This leads to Billy clearly being exploited as free summer
labour when he has other options. But this is the only way
he can not let his mother down, and like many kids obsessed
with computers, his school grades are poor.
I laughed aloud a few times, and I didn't want to stop
until I'd finished. I could see troubles brewing, but young
adult readers will take some genuine life lessons away from
the story. Characters are provided with depth and
background. I particularly enjoyed the ingenuity of the
plotters, their determination to pursue their goals even
after landing at the bottom again, and the way they can
fall out but still be staunch friends. And I liked being
reminded of Compuserve. This would make a great family or
class discussion book. THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS by Jason
Rekulak will keep you entertained, whatever your age.
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