Here are links and excerpts to reviews and press for YEAR OF THE TIGER (ROCK PAPER TIGER)…
From PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY:
(Starred Review) Ellie Cooper, the heroine of Brackmann’s electrifying debut, is an Iraq War vet trying to forget her past while bumming around the fringes of the Beijing art world. Having been ditched by her husband, Trey, a former army interrogator now working in China as a private security consultant, Ellie has drifted into a relationship with the artist Lao Zhang, as well as into a fog of Percocet and ennui in order to escape her memories of Iraq. After Zhang disappears with a mysterious Uighur, Ellie becomes a person of interest to U.S. and Chinese authorities, and soon Ellie’s evading goons and cops, getting information from Zhang’s friends via a massive multiplayer online game, and flashing back to her experiences as a combat medic at an Abu Ghraib–like detention center. The China scenes are fast paced and strikingly atmospheric, and Ellie’s backstory–her and Trey’s return from combat is tough, sad, and endearing–is given in doses that perfectly complement the central action. Given the high-octane leadup, the ending is a bit of a letdown, but the book’s exotic setting and tough heroine will definitely appeal to fans of John Burdett and Stieg Larsson. (June)
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From The New York Times
Lisa Brackmann’s first novel gets off to a fast start and never lets up. Its foul-mouthed narrator, Ellie Cooper, is a 26-year-old former National Guard medic who’s landed in Beijing, still traumatized by what she experienced in the “sandbox” of Iraq. Her marriage to Trey Cooper, employed by a Blackwater-like outfit operating in China, has fallen apart, and now, in between hookups with a local artist, she’s spending a lot of time popping Percocet, guzzling beer at karaoke bars and sipping coffee at Starbucks.
What’s wrong with all this? Ellie would be the first to admit that it’s a little screwed up, but it’s still a lot better than vegging out back home in Arizona with her preachy, born-again mother. Welcome to expat life for the Naught generation: Beijing is the new Prague, with enough booze, sex and caffeine to keep any restless Westerner satisfied…
…Brackmann bears witness to the whirl of the country’s hyper- development and its repercussions: the land seizures and razing of neighborhoods; the hurriedly-built high rises and tourist attractions; the metro stations with hordes of “migrants from the countryside clutching their cardboard suitcases and faded striped shopping bags, the giggling students sharing iPod earbuds and ringtones, the middle-class Beijingers in their Polo shirts and fake Prada.” And she shows us the odd, postmodern juxtapositions: life-size cutouts of the N.B.A. star Yao Ming rubbing up against ironically Mao-inspired installation art…if your interests range wide and far, from the Iraq war to online gaming and the globalization of China, this may be your book. Just be prepared for a wild ride.
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 (Yosemite Falls, Orange County, Laguna Beach Resort Lifestyle Homes). Tattered posters for the Beijing Olympics still adorn the walls of dumpling shops, and twentysomething crowds jam Internet cafés to play intricate virtual games.
But don’t be fooled by the modernization: Shadowy government figures can still destroy you, as Iraq war veteran Ellie Cooper discovers. At the apartment of an artist friend she briefly meets a Uighur, a member of a Chinese Muslim community. Soon her friend — a sometime-lover who’s trying to keep an artists’ community flourishing despite the government’s interference — vanishes, along with the Uighur. Ellie, suffering from post-traumatic-stress disorder, is suddenly followed, questioned and threatened.
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.
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. Along the way, lots about the online gaming world that often seems the main passion of youthful Chinese, especially males.
I can’t judge the fidelity of the Iraq-torture scenes, or of the games, for that matter. But the off-hand observations about Beijing — and Taiyuan and Xi’an — ring true to me, and are very different from what you’ll hear from the standard media or business bigshot making a drop-by visit…
…This is a racier version of expat life in Beijing than I know about first hand — oh these kids! It’s obviously unsentimental about contemporary Chinese values and governance, but if anything it’s tougher on America’s. Definitely worth reading.