The Impossible Fortress: A Novel by Jason RekulakThe Impossible Fortress: A Novel by Jason Rekulak

The Impossible Fortress: A Novel

byJason Rekulak

Hardcover | February 7, 2017

Pricing and Purchase Info

$24.94 online 
$33.00 list price save 24%
Earn 125 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Not available in stores



“A sweet, funny, and moving tribute to nerds and misfits everywhere.” —Seth Grahame-Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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 first time.
Title:The Impossible Fortress: A NovelFormat:HardcoverDimensions:304 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:February 7, 2017Publisher:Simon & SchusterLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1501144413

ISBN - 13:9781501144417

Look for similar items by category:


Rated 4 out of 5 by from An enjoyable flashback to the 80's This was a fun book to read, with memories of the 80's being constantly brought back. I also found the breadth of characters to be greatly entertaining.
Date published: 2017-10-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Different but good I started off skeptical but the more I read, the more I wanted to keep reading. Really enjoyed this.
Date published: 2017-05-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Nerdy and adorable! I’ll start with this : I really think this book is underrated and should have had more hype when it came out. Taking place in 1987, we meet Billy and his two best friends, Alf and Clark, who are desperate to put their hands on a copy of Playboy, which features popular TV show host, Vanna White. Dragged in a silly scheme to steal the magazine, Billy accepts to win Marry Zelinsky’s heart in order to discover the security code alarm of her father’s store. But Mary is kinda cool, and she knows more about computers than him. She also promises that she’ll help him win a video game programming contest. So yeah, Billy is falling for this girl, who, according to his friend, is “so fat, her scale says ‘to be continued’!”. And so, he does not tell them, and still wants to gain his friend’s trust by going on with the plan. What could go wrong? I liked this book! Even if Billy made mistakes on top of mistakes, which made me want to slap him sometimes, I found his character adorable. At first, nobody seemed to believe in him, not even the school headmaster. But then Mary Zelinsky entered his life. I LOVED her. She’s this genius computer nerd and intriguing character! There are some references to the 80’s everywhere along your read. We also get an idea of the challenge that programming represented back in the days. Still, Mary managed to communicate with Billy through some cute little games she designed herself. I loved those moments, they added so much to the story. The reason I’m not giving it 5 stars is mainly because of the ending and this weird plot twist (not spoiling it for you). I don’t think it needed to have this surprising and unbelievable ending. I felt like the whole thing was aberrant when I finished it. It also changed my feelings toward a character in an undesirable way. I would recommend it anyways, particularly to you nerds out there! P.S. : You can actually play The Impossible Fortress if you go on the author's website. How awesome is that! They say it's the little things... :)
Date published: 2017-05-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Engaging, entertaining and oh so eighties. 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.
Date published: 2017-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun coming of age love story from a nerd prospective Mid way through the book I was wondering what will happen as it seemed to be coming close to the end of the story when the twist came and it was like a gut punch just like the character felt and then when the reason for the twist came you were like "WOAH!" and then it all fell into place and it was awesome! (I read an ARC of the novel)
Date published: 2017-02-03

Read from the Book

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.

Editorial Reviews

* MOST ANTICIPATED NOVELS OF 2017 SELECTION BY * ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY * BUSTLE * INSTYLE.COM * PRAISE FOR THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS "Revel in 1987 nostalgia in this debut about a teen boy, a coveted copy of Playboy, and a computer-nerd girl." —Entertainment Weekly "Need a sanctuary book right about now? Maybe a retro escapist read about simpler times that lets you laugh out loud, not overthink, indulge in nostalgia? Well, here you go. The Impossible Fortress is a quirky, endearing, full embrace of the late ‘80s. Set in those promise-filled, early years of the Computer Age, its clever plot is driven by surging teen hormones and fumbling first love, by bad adolescent choices and a struggle for redemption." —USA Today "Full of clueless boys, consequence-free adventures and generous helpings of adolescent humor, all served up with a kind relish the book’s countless callbacks to the 1980s." —Washington Post “Infused with 1980s music, pop culture, and plenty of the BASIC computer programming language, Rekulak’s debut offers a charmingly vintage take on geek love, circa 1987 in New Jersey… Rekulak’s novel will have readers of a certain age waxing nostalgic about Space Invaders and humming Hall and Oates, but it’s still a fun ride that will appeal to all.”  —Publishers Weekly   “Rekulak layers in nostalgic eighties references, like a mixtape created by Mary’s recently deceased mother, an oblique nod to Beetlejuice, and the wacky group of misfit friends with a 'really good' plan. Despite all that, in the end the plot manages to magically subvert the time period while also paying homage to it. An unexpected retro delight.” —Booklist (starred review) "Set against the backdrop of 1980s New Jersey, Jason Rekulak's charming coming-of-age debut about a 14-year-old computer nerd who schemes to steal an issue of Playboy from a local store and meets a girl who can code in the process will invoke pangs of nostalgia." —InStyle "A sweet and surprising story about young love." —A.V. Club "There are few things in this life more satisfying than a book that truly grasps what it's like to be a nerd—and what makes it so much damn fun. The Impossible Fortress is about video games, first crushes, idols and adolescence—and it's a thoroughly escapist joy in its most pure form." —Newsweek   "Fans of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One — or anyone who grew up as a nerd in the ‘80s — will be sure to find something to love in Philadelphia-based author Rekulak’s debut novel, about a 14-year-old Commodore 64 aficionado whose life changes when he encounters a Playboy photo spread and meets a computer programmer." —Men's Journal "This debut novel by the publisher of Quirk Books feels like a sort of spiritual prequel to Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, with a young protagonist adrift in a sea of pop culture and new technology, trying to figure out his future." —Library Journal "The Impossible Fortress strikes the perfect balance of strangeness and relatability; it’s nostalgic in all the right ways. It reminds us that sometimes relationships are like video games, where small actions have big consequences and we have to fail a few times before we succeed." —Bookpage "This book is Stranger Things meets Halt and Catch Fire, to be enjoyed by those (like me) who have a soft spot for 8-bit games and the teenage antics of a more innocent time. " — "A love letter to the 1980s, adolescence, technology, nerd-dom, and Vanna White, The Impossible Fortress will make you laugh and remind you of how much is possible when you're fourteen." —David Ebershoff, bestselling author of The Danish Girl "The Impossible Fortress reads like a newly-unearthed Amblin movie—a sweet, funny and moving tribute to nerds and misfits everywhere, set in a magical time when cassettes were king, phones had cords and Playboy was the pinnacle of smut. Fans of Ernie Cline and Chuck Klosterman—this is your next favorite book." —Seth Grahame-Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies "The Impossible Fortress is hilarious, compulsively readable and surprisingly poignant, a teenage caper novel set in a time where U2 could still be considered a one-hit wonder and pornography was as close and as unobtainable to a 14-year-old boy as a Playboy magazine kept behind the counter at an office supply store. I absolutely loved it." —Carolyn Parkhurst, New York Times bestselling author of The Dogs of Babel and Harmony "Part love story, part coming-of-age tale, and part heist picture, The Impossible Fortress is an endlessly clever novel about friendship, heartache and computers—all rendered with the bright colors and buoyant spirit of Q*bert for the Commodore 64."   —Ben H. Winters, author of the Edgar-award winning Last Policeman trilogy, and Underground Airlines  "A tenderly crafted and charmingly spot-on debut novel....surprising and nostalgic in the best possible way." —Denise Kiernan, New York Times bestselling author of The Girls of Atomic City  “Touching and gut-wrenching; an uplifting tribute to anyone who was ever a high school outcast. Trust me, you’re welcome.” —Andrew Smith, award-winning author of Grasshopper Jungle and Winger “Anyone who was a nerdy 14-year-old in the mid ‘80s (like me) will love this hilarious and nostalgic book." —John Boyne, author of The Heart’s Invisible Furies