- Title: The Impossible Fortress
- Author: Jason Rekulak
- Genre: Coming of Age Fiction
- Structure: Linear first-person narration
- First Line: “My mother was convinced I’d die young.”
Synopsis: A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.
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.
I was a little skeptical of this book when I first received it. I like science fiction. Even though I’d say my favorite genre is mystery/thriller, science fiction is a very close second. I grew up with it and it’s one of the genres that made me fall in love with books.
That said, there’s really only one thing I liked about this novel. At the beginning of each chapter, there is computer code. At first, I thought it was off-putting. But, then I read the author’s note in the back that it’s actually the code for the game the main character is writing, which you can play in real life on his site (here). I thought that was pretty cool because I’ve never seen that done before.
And, that’s just about it for the only thing I liked…
Ugh, where do I begin?! There’s so much wrong with this book that I actually got nauseous every time I picked it up to continue reading. Actually, literally, physically nauseous. As in, this book made me sick. To be completely honest, you guys, I didn’t finish it. (And that is saying something, because I even finished this shitty book and it was way longer). Maybe at the end, there’s some epiphany by the main characters as to why they’re such crap-weasels, but, based off the other reviews I read, that doesn’t happen.
Let me give you the short version: This book is a misogynic piece of crap that glorifies pornography, stealing, and valuing women based on appearance. It has no context. No gripping details. No soul.
Now, onto the lengthier version of that. Right off the bat, the main characters are trying to figure out a way to get a Playboy with nude photos of Vanna White on the cover and in the center. I was willing to write this off if it was only for a couple pages. You guys, this is the whole freaking book. It even comes down to them making an elaborate plan to steal the magazine! This pissed me off on a new level. Not only does the author and narrator (and characters) acknowledge that the photos of Vanna White were stolen and that they were published against her will, but it becomes the foundation for the novel. There is no nod to “pornography is bad” or “this is a gross violation of privacy for the sick, perverted pleasure of men”. It goes one step beyond glorification of pornography and misogyny into the territory of normalization. Jason Rekulak immediately lost my respect as a reader at that point.
Oh, and it’s not just the Vanna White focus either. There is even a weird little character added in there of a nude women (done with slashes and asteriks, etc. because computers) from one of the main characters making a computerized strip poker game to get off. Yup. I’ll just leave it at that.
Onto the next piece of misogynistic crap, the main female character. Never mind that she’s smart. Never mind that she’s writing better programs than the boys. Nope. She is fat. Gosh, she’d be so pretty if she wasn’t fat. I’m not kidding. That is a central focus on one of (if the) only female characters in this book. I actually can’t even formulate straight thoughts right now because my hair just lit on fire thinking about how disgusting this portrayal of women is. The only thing I can do is wild, angry hand gestures and continue dominating the world because women are freaking awesome and women are more than their bodies, they are more than their ratings little boys give them, and they are more than this stupid book.
On a different note, there are several reviews out there claiming that Rekulak didn’t do his homework when writing about 1987. A couple mistakes are understandable. But there are claims to some gaping holes. I don’t mind creative license, but there needs to be a line drawn. Is this supposed to be a realistic portrayal of 1987 or is this a fantasized version of 1987? It seemed like it was meant to be realistic, which makes the mishaps not great for the rapport of the book.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever hated a book quite as much as this one. The more I think about it, the angrier it makes me. Normally, even if a book has glaring flaws (which I think this one has surpassed “flaws” and reached a new level), I’m still willing to read another book from that author in the future. I do not wish to read anything Jason Rekulak publishes in the future. This book is enough for me.
THE SWEET SPOTS
In this section, I cover some of my deeper, personal thoughts. Books are meant to make you think. I always think the best books are the ones that help you discover pieces of yourself.
- Did this book remind you of anything that has happened to you?: I think in a twisted way, this book would remind a lot of women what they’ve been through. We are constantly being rated by our bodies. We are constantly being passed up for opportunities. Men are consistently shocked that, low and behold, we’re smart! We’re more than just flesh! We have brains! All this is still continuing today. I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t been subjected to a man’s twisted, selfish, and perverted view (read: cat calls, sexual harassment, the inability to hear “no”). While the news reports the new groundbreaking ideas men are contributing to, they are asking women which designer they like to wear. It’s enough. It’s time to see beyond what we’re made of and appreciate who we are.
- Did this book give you any new ideas of yourself?: Yes. It showed me how much a I can truly hate a book.
- What lesson did you learn?: Nothing has changed since 1987 because this book was written today and reads like the 19th century.
I’d give this a 1/5 stars. I’d like to give it no stars. I do not ever like to throw out books, but this one is effectively going in the trash. I don’t even think it’s worthy of being a doorstop at this point. Don’t read it. Don’t recommend it to friends. It’s a perverted, misogynistic and poorly researched trainwreck. And, that’s the nice version.
Usually, below, I leave a place where you can get your copy. You’ll notice that there’s no link for that, or links throughout this entire post. That is how thoroughly I do not believe in this book.