Rock Paper Tiger
By Lisa Brackmann
(Soho Press, Hardcover, 9781569476406, 368pp.)
Publication Date: June 1, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
American Iraq War veteran Ellie Cooper is down and out in Beijing when a chance encounter with a Uighur—a member of a Chinese Muslim minority—at the home of her sort-of boyfriend Lao Zhang turns her life upside down. Lao Zhang disappears, and suddenly multiple security organizations are hounding her for information. They say the Uighur is a terrorist. Ellie doesn’t know what’s going on, but she must decide whom to trust among the artists, dealers, collectors, and operatives claiming to be on her side—in particular, a mysterious organization operating within a popular online role-playing game. As she tries to elude her pursuers, she’s haunted by memories of Iraq. Is what she did and saw there at the root of the mess she’s in now?
Lisa Brackmann has worked as an executive at a major motion picture studio, an issues researcher in a presidential campaign, and as the singer/songwriter/bassist in an LA rock band. A southern California native, she currently lives in Venice, California, with her three cats. Rock Paper Tiger is her first novel.
“This pulse-racer about an American Iraq-war vet is set in the art world of Beijing.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Lisa Brackmann’s novel gets off to a fast start and never lets up.... Ellie is a perfect spunky heroine.... Be prepared for a wild ride.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Lisa Brackmann’s timely and hip debut novel is a thriller with a plucky heroine, locales actual and virtual, and grounding in the Abu Ghraib scandal.... Brackmann can write.”— Boston Globe
“A remarkable debut.... Brackmann paints a mesmerizing picture of life in jittery modern Beijing.”—Seattle Times
“To add to the list of 'good fiction set in modern China,' check out Rock Paper Tiger, by Lisa Brackmann. It's a mystery/action novel that pretty much pulls off something I would have thought improbable: combining an account of Iraq-war drama (the emphasis is on Abu Ghraib–type themes), with a portrayal of the urban China of these past few years, complete with overhyped art scene, dissident bloggers, lots of young expats, and constant uncertainty about what the government will permit or crack down on.”—The Atlantic
“Electrifying debut ... the book’s exotic setting and tough heroine will definitely appeal to fans of John Burdett and Steig Larsson.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Lisa Brackmann’s debut novel is as slick and smart as an alley cat. As her heroine Ellie dashes across China, issues as diverse as the Iraq war, evangelical Christianity, China’s art bubble, and the weird and wacky world of virtual games, are all thrown into the mix. The result is a wildly original read. Brackmann manages the difficult task of touching on recent and raw controversies—Ellie is involved, for example, in Abu Ghraib–inspired prisoner abuse—without ever being pat or patronising. Even more remarkable is her enfant terrible protagonist: 26-year-old Ellie is tough, snarky and immensely likeable. Through her voice Brackmann never falls into the trite and tired trap of so many foreigners who write about an ‘exotic’ China. Beijing in Rock Paper Tiger is as it is in real life: fast, furious, often ugly, and with a Starbucks sitting on every corner. Brackmann’s novel is a witty comment on Beijing’s youth culture; it also, in an innovative twist, submerges the reader into a virtual world.”—Time Out Beijing
“Finally a Western writer has taken China’s domestically bestselling genre of wild, louche-life youth and re-imagined it as a highly original expat thriller. It’s a wild ride—but don’t turn the pages too fast. Brackmann’s evocation of China, funny, frustrating, frightening, sometimes tender, and always real, is worth savoring.”—Nicole Mones, author of Lost in Translation and The Last Chinese Chef
“Rock Paper Tiger is a splendid debut novel by a gifted new writer. Her Chinese setting is exotic and chilling, and the characters live and breathe. The story is smart and fast as a sports car. Keep an eye on Brackmann.”—T. Jefferson Parker, author of The Renegades and Iron River.
"Few writers would be up to the challenge of blending the worlds of urban China, Iraq, and a virtual online kingdom—but Lisa Brackmann wildly succeeds. Prepare to taste the smog, smell the noodles, and rub the Beijing dust between your fingers. Rock Paper Tiger is a fresh and vigorous work that vividly captures the roller coaster that is life in modern China.”—Eliot Pattison, author of the Edgar award-winning novel, The Skull Mantra
“A terrifying odyssey in present-day China, running through the political capital, Beijing; the coal mining capital, Taiyuan; the ancient capital, Xi’an; and the Three-Kingdoms capital, Chengdu; not to mention the capital of the post-modern Great Community, the computer game, with the protagonist pursued by the Chinese and American governments alike in a global panorama. A totally captivating page-turner with vivid, first-hand details and nuanced multi-cultural facets.”—Qiu Xiaolong, author of The Mao Case
"Lisa Brackmann's Rock Paper Tiger is a compelling debut that takes you deep into the dangerous, complicated heart of modern China, with a tough and appealing heroine in Ellie McEnroe."—Jeff Abbott, author of Trust Me
“An original and compelling protagonist.... Brackman maintains the tension throughout, and we're given a surrealist peek at China's subterranean society through the disapproving eyes of a shell-shocked American female war veteran—one who has been badly let down by her own comrades in arms.”—Japan Times
“[Also] at the top of the Most Promising New Author list is Lisa Brackmann with Rock Paper Tiger. Brackmann, whose roots lie in San Diego, draws upon her experiences in modern day China to weave a terrifying tale of life and death behind the Bamboo Curtain.”—San Diego Union Tribune
“The contemporary China so vividly rendered in Lisa Brackmann's bracing debut novel is a place where the Starbucks baristas ‘all know the English words for coffee' and housing developments are named after glamorous U.S. hotspots.... Brackmann, who has lived and traveled extensively in China, paints an extraordinary portrait of an ever-shifting country. Rock Paper Tiger is a gripping ex-pat nightmare that unfolds with superb pacing and salient details. And it makes you damned glad your life is boring.”—Miami Herald
“Brackman’s debut deftly mixes modern China, the Iraq War, and online gaming, an unusual combination that manages to work ... the two narrative strands constitute a fast-paced and engaging story as both plots are full of mystery and suspense ... the characters are full-bodied and engaging. Good reading for anyone interested in the international crime novel.”—Booklist
“A gritty and intriguing tale of terror that draws in the reader with each page; Brackmann is a new writer to watch.”—Library Journal