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The Spirit of Pong Paperback – May 14, 2015
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About the Author
Larry Hodges, of Germantown, MD, is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame as a coach and writer. He’s certified as a National Coach by USA Table Tennis, the highest level, and coaches at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. As a writer he has nine books and over 1500 published articles in over 140 publications. He’s also an active member of Science Fiction Writers of America, with over 70 short story sales and the novel “Sorcerers in Space,” a humorous fantasy about the U.S.-Soviet space race in the 1960s, with sorcerers instead of astronauts. Many of his best stories are compiled in the anthology “Pings and Pongs.” His story “The Awakening” was the unanimous grand prize winner at the 2010 Garden State Horror Writers Short Story Competition. His story “Rationalized” won the November 2011 Story Quest Competition. Visit his science fiction & fantasy page at: LarryHodges.org Visit his table tennis page (with links to his other books) and daily blog at: TableTennisCoaching.com
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If you're a ponger, you know that an American doing well in the World Championships is about as rare a Loch Ness monster sighting. But hey, if you thought the U.S. hockey team could win the gold medal in 1980, if you thought Argentina could beat the U.S. in basketball in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and if you cried during the ending scene of "Rudy", then this book is for you.
You really do have to keep your fantasy hat on while reading the book. Set aside that Chinese National Team fanboi-ism for a little bit and you'll be guaranteed a nice literary experience. The story is basically what it says in the back cover, an American who goes to China to learn the Chinese secrets of table tennis.
Pros: I really liked the chapter with Ogimura. The physical preparation for table tennis really pumped me up to go out and do a few sprints and some push-ups. It was like a motivation CD that you listen to in your car before hitting the gym. Once you arrive, you're ready to get down to business. I also enjoyed reading the chapter with "The Dragon". It was really very funny for me. Again, keep your fantasy hat on. There was also a good bit of history in the book. I knew a little bit being a ponger but there were a few things that I had to search online for verification. The World Championship match was complete insanity. The development of the characters of Andy and Coach Wang were excellent in that a reader can identify with both of their motivations.
Cons: The chapter with Rong Guotuan was a bit dark. I was not put off by it as I enjoy those kinds things in other books also. I just did not think it fit in well with the overall feel of the book. I suppose it would be like putting bacon in an ice cream cone. Some might like it and some might not.
Overall, Larry did a great job mixing TT history, fantasy, and fiction in a 100-page package.