At fifty-three years old, lifetime tennis pro Wally Wilson has shelved his ambition for a comfortable and happy life as a tennis instructor for the rich and richer of Silicon Valley, under the watch of the questionable benefactor 17-year-old Ashley Margincall.
With the support of his loving though quirky family and the bankrolls of his eccentric clients, the slow and easy life of a teacher perfectly suits the old pro and his on-and-off heart problems. All is well, perhaps even mostly normal, until Wally’s wife is kidnapped on a business trip to Sweden, sparking Wally’s latent tennis-based superpowers and catching the attention of the most secret secret agency of the United States.
Racket in hand, Wally is pulled into his most dangerous game yet as his career takes an unexpected jump to the top of the top in the Grand Slam Conspiracy and his surprise involvement in a shadow war based on top of the US Open.
Slammin’ by Marcus Paul Cootsona is a fantastically off-the-wall (not to be confused with squash) piece. With the bizarre premise that no blurb could possibly do justice to, it could be easy to write Slammin’ off as a careless joke without further investigation. However, odd as it is, Slammin’ somehow makes all its immiscible elements come together and make sense in an Uncanny Valley sort of way. Farcical only to a point, its tongue-in-cheek attitude to story is a wonderful view into the life of Wally, who himself holds a very pragmatic and quietly humored world-view that the book adopts. Frequent asides and mini-anecdotes by and involving Wally weave in and out of the story like a hyperactive pet, not particularly unwanted but often distracting, and alongside a mildly farcical and absurdist plot that takes tennis to its rightful place in the world’s order readers can easily find themselves either entertained or confused, often a strange middle that tickles fancies you never expected to even have, as occasionally disjointed and somewhat schizophrenic as it may be.
Slammin’ is a very fun read, if you don’t mind having to flip a page back now and then to remind yourself of how everything fits. If you’re okay with putting reason on hold while you dig into the book, the odd plot hole or logical jump is easily overlooked for the sheer fun the book can be when all its oddities play in harmony. Almost every character has a unique charm that feels natural no matter how odd it may be out of context for a sort of Juno or Easy A feeling of off-beat skewed-realist internal logic. Not everything has a pay-off beyond its immediate value, but with the right mindset the world constructed by Cootsona feels very alive, and even in the face of the most bizarre dangers of the book a laugh can somehow be found.
Clearly an individual with decent experience in both tennis and fiction, Cootsona hits it out of the court in an entirely unexpected way, and it’s a pleasure to find someone who has made both their interests work so well together.
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