The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak
Read by Griffin Newman
It seems Nostalgia is in and Jason Rekulak’s The Impossible Fortress has it in spades. Full of 80’s pop songs, movie and tv references, ancient computer archaeology and enough snarky omniscient humor about what is to come, The Impossible Fortress is a bittersweet, often silly coming of age tell that splendidly relives the 80’s for us so we don’t have to. As someone who lived the actual experience of being an unpopular, awkward teenager in the late 80’s this book should be perfect for me. The problem is that awkward teenage boys are incredibly annoying and Rekulak captures this perfectly because I was in a constant state of annoyance with these characters. It’s like I wanted to reach into my past and slap these boys in the face maybe with a few quick jabs at me as well. I escaped my awkward 80s childhood and really don’t want to go back. Each kid was unreasonably obnoxious. When simple solutions to their problems presented themselves they choose convoluted plans then chose even more convoluted plans to solve the problems that arose from their initial recklessness. Rekulak may have done his job too well. This may be a fun novel for people who observed peripherally the life of awkward, unpopular 14 year old boys in the 80’s but the reason God created whiskey was so I can beat the memories of those days into the deepest corner of my brain reserved for prepubescent unrequited crushes and Phil Collins songs.
I have mixed feelings about Griffin Newman’s performance. Like the 14 year old main character, his pacing was awkward. He read like his voice was cracking and he wasn’t quite sure which word in a sentence was supposed to be emphasized. This was seemingly a stylistic choice which at times worked to fit the narrative but at other times took me out of the story. I appreciate what he was trying to do, and for the most part it was effective, especially as he began to feel more comfortable in the story. I give Newman credit, most narrators are unwilling to take the risks he did with this story and when it worked, it made the tale even better. But when it didn’t it just emphasized how annoying these boys were to me. I think Newman has a bright future as an actor and narrator even if I didn’t love everything about The Impossible Fortress.