I hope Spielberg has already optioned this. 4.5/5.
Thank you to Faber & Faber and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book. The Impossible Fortress is already available to purchase in ebook form.
The blurb: It’s 1987. Billy Marvin, the tallest boy in ninth grade, has just witnessed history. Wheel of Fortune presenter Vanna White is on the cover of Playboy. Billy and his friends, Alf and Clark, know that if they can get hold of the magazine, their world will change. For ever.
But as Billy says, ‘No shopkeeper in America was going to sell Playboy to a fourteen-year-old boy.’
As they set out on their mission to find the most wanted images in America, they’re blissfully unaware of the dangers, dramas and garbage dumpsters that lie ahead. And of how a girl called Mary might just change one of their lives. For ever.
When I first saw this book on NetGalley, all it took was a quick read of the blurb to convince me I would enjoy it. I knew I had slim chance of getting a copy from the US publisher, but I gave it a try… and failed. Cue bitter disappointment. So obviously I was thrilled when the UK publisher approved my request and it turns out my hunch was correct: The Impossible Fortress is delightful.
If you’re a fan of 1980s’ movies with a mostly teenage cast, such as Stand By Me, E.T. and The Goonies, please read this book. The main characters are all likeable and you find yourself capable of forgiving them almost anything, even Alf’s many questionable comments.
I loved all the computer elements which brought back fond memories of using a BBC Basic computer, floppy disks and playing Repton games. Of waiting ten minutes for the computer to boot up and then another ten for the modem to connect, all while marvelling at how incredible the technology was and never dreaming it could get any better.
Nostalgia aside, while most of the plot of The Impossible Fortress is fairly straightforward you should know there’s a jaw-dropping reveal close to the end. It’s not often a book surprises me this convincingly, and I take my hat off to the author for throwing me off the scent entirely.
Overall: a sweet story unafraid to throw some sharp edges and shocks at its readers. Immerse yourself in wonderful 80s’ nostalgia and remind yourself why you shouldn’t take your laptop and smartphone for granted!
Claire Huston / Art and Soul