Ms.pegasus's Reviews > Rock Paper Tiger

Rock Paper Tiger by Lisa Brackmann
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's review
Apr 07, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: thriller, china, fiction
Recommended for: action fans, readers interested in stories set in China
Read in February, 2011 — I own a copy , read count: 1

Ellie (Chinese name, Yili) describes the dilapidated squalor of her environs in Haidian Qu, and the reader is instantly drawn in. How did she, an American woman, get here? More hints are dropped – her leg hurts so badly that she alleviates the pain with a dwindling supply of percocet. She has some interesting friends, including a serious artist named Lao Zhang, a painter and performance artist in the “Mati Village” district, an artist colony on the norther outskirts of Beijing. Her roommate, Chuckie, is a geeky online gamer with the screen name of Eloquent Evergreen Monkey in “The Sword of Ill-Repute” - a World of Warcraft type of role-playing game. Ellie's avatar is Little Mountain Tiger and Lao Zhang's screen name is Upright Boar. Ellie met Lao Zhang through Chuckie – mutual “Sword” enthusiasts. These are all characters of heightened intensity, and we believe in them because they are part of this millieu of artists never quite safe from the scrutiny of the authorities or the duplicity of political barter.

The narrative alternates between Ellie's past, her present pursuit by two threatening “suits” who might be government agents or worse -- freelance security contractors -- and the mysterious online gaming characters who drop veiled hints about the danger she and Lao Zhang (who has gone into hiding) are in. We see these characters through Ellie's eyes and because of that, the reader is always kept in suspense: Which of these characters are friends and which are threats motivated by private agendas? It is also because of this subjective viewpoint that the reader is drawn to Ellie, a blend of vulnerability and tough defensiveness.

ROCK, PAPER, TIGER by Lisa Brackmann is alive from page one. The environs are described with intense vividness: “I'm living in this dump in Haidian Qu, close to Wudaokou, on the twenty-first floor of a decaying high-rise. The grounds are bare; the trees have died; the rubber tiles on the walkways, in their garish pink and yellow, are cracked and curling.” That's from the very first paragraph. The Chinese references add to the authenticity. Characters greet each other with the traditional “ni hao.” When beer flows, its Yanjing or Quingdao . At one point a character tentatively remarks to Ellie: “Hong xian....It is about fate....It is the red thread that tangles but does not break. It is the thing that connects some people to each other. Because they are meant to be connected.”

This is a character centered book, and it concludes with a satisfying sense of character growth, even if we feel some sense of loss at the resolution of the plot.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Lisa Brackmann Thanks for this very thoughtful, perceptive review! I'm still new enough at this for it to be a real pleasure when I connect with a reader like this.


Ms.pegasus Lisa wrote: "Thanks for this very thoughtful, perceptive review! I'm still new enough at this for it to be a real pleasure when I connect with a reader like this.


Thank you, Lisa. I want to share the many positive feelings I have from the books I read. Noticed you have some interesting books on your shelf. I'm looking forward to your next book.

Lisa Brackmann Thanks for your interest—I have a new book coming out with Soho early 2012. We are still puzzling over the title...

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