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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Naja Marie Aidt

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To purchase Rock, Paper, Scissors

Title: Rock, Paper, Scissors
Author: Naja Marie Aidt
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 345 pages
Original in: Danish
Availability: Rock, Paper, Scissors - US
Rock, Paper, Scissors - UK
Rock, Paper, Scissors - Canada
Rock, Paper, Scissors - India
  • Danish title: Sten, saks, papir
  • Translated by K.E.Semmel

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Our Assessment:

B+ : solid psycho-/socio-logical suspense

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Politiken . 31/8/2013 Lilian Munk Rösing
Publishers Weekly . 11/5/2015 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "I plothenseende bliver det begrænsede perspektiv yderst effektfuldt, idet det er med til at suspendere en mulig opklaring. (...) Til gengæld er der poesi i hver af romanens enkle sætninger. Malerisk poesi i de stemningsfulde billeder og portrætter, de giver os, poetisk rytme i tegnsætningen, som snart sætter punktum mellem hver hovedsætning, snart lader sætninger eller sætningsled akkumuleres med opremsningens kommatering." - Lilian Munk Rösing, Politiken

  • "Laced with sex, marital problems, family drama, and money woes, Aidt’s supremely cultivated novel is concerned with the struggle to connect with those we truly love and the consequences of remaining distant. Aidt writes with verve, passion, and a sharp edge" - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Fatherhood does not fare well in Rock, Paper, Scissors, which begins with protagonist Thomas O'Mally Lindström's father having just died (in prison). Jacques O'Mally raised Thomas and his sister Jenny after their mother abandoned the family (several of the mothers in the story are hardly more inspiring than the paternal figures, too), until Thomas couldn't take it anymore and ran away to his aunt's. Thomas can't even imagine being a father himself: among the constant sources of tension between Thomas and his longtime and live-in girlfriend, Patricia, is that she desperately wants a child and he absolutely doesn't. Other father-figures are similarly absent or almost non-existent: the father of Thomas' eighteen-year-old niece, Alice, abandoned Jenny and her ages earlier, while Thomas' aunt and her (female) partner have twins conceived by in vitro fertilization -- so even the identity of the donor of the sperm is unknown (and the girls are curious about him, obviously feeling the lack to some extent). Other paternity issues also come to the fore in the resolution of the novel, and are central to the disastrous turns things take for several of the characters.
       Thomas runs a small stationery and office-supply store with his childhood friend and best buddy, Maloney (whose name was originally Tim Stürtz). Business is going quite well and they're enjoying their work, but his father's death nevertheless throws Thomas for a loop. He admits:

     I'm not myself, Patricia. I can't explain it. Weird things are happening.
       It's Thomas, however, who in a variety fo ways is stirring up that weirdness.
       Thomas loathed the old man, and refuses even to pay for the funeral; he also declines his inheritance -- not that there is much to inherit (and this way he's off the hook for any debts Jacques might have had). But the more hysterical Jenny finds it a bit harder to let go, and she has her eyes set on dad's toaster, which brings back rare good memories of childhood. Retrieving the toaster from their father's apartment (which technically they aren't supposed to, since they turned down the estate) they find it has been broken into, with someone apparently looking for something. The toaster is there however -- and it's no surprise that when Jenny tries to use it it doesn't work. She calls Thomas to try to fix it, and when he does he finds the problem is that something has been hidden in the toaster -- more of his father's legacy, which, without apprising anyone of his discovery, he tucks away for his own use.
       It's pretty clear that whoever had tossed the apartment was looking for what Thomas (mis)appropriated -- and whoever it is continues to want to get their hands on it, and seems pretty firmly convinced Thomas has it, or knows where it is. The stationery store gets vandalized, and Thomas repeatedly has good reason to feel threatened. He suspects some of his father's seedy old colleagues are involved, but can't quite make the connections. And then there's new kid on the block Luc/Luke -- who also has a terrible mother and no real father, but who apparently was Jacques' protégé; certainly, Jacques was a father figure for him, which is something Thomas has trouble wrapping his head around -- Jacques was not father-figure material. Suspicious of the smart and talented Luke and the ways he inveigles himself into the lives of those he knows, Thomas finds even more to worry about.
       Thomas' world doesn't so much collapse around him; rather he undermines it at almost every turn. He gets a harebrained idea to expand the business, and he acts unconscionably towards Patricia, forcing the (many) issue(s) they have to the fore.
       Aidt presents the unraveling in close, patient detail. Parts of the novel jump ahead significantly -- the novel is divided into three parts, and from the end of the second to the beginning of the third there is a leap of a few months -- but most of the narrative is a close description of events, including a lengthy section devoted to a weekend where the whole gang gathers at Thomas and Jenny's aunt's place in the country (and, for example, the literary games they play there).
       Disappointingly resorting to the cheap device of Thomas moving in a fog and blacking out for various reasons -- he's drunk, he faints, he's really preoccupied ... -- Aidt gives Thomas an out for many of his unthinking (re)actions. Of course, part of his problem is that he doesn't properly engage with the people and situations around him; still, his instinct to impulsive (re)action and lashing out (over)simplify what is meant to be a coming to terms (in a clever, roundabout way) with his father and his father's legacy.
       If the story falls a bit short in consistency and plausible depth -- the characters remain too distant and vague, their motives or (self)interest often obscured (all very much Thomas' perspective, as he is, if not quite blind to everything around him, certainly very slow on the uptake) -- Aidt nevertheless impresses with her writing and the build-up of many scenes. It's a sometimes odd mix -- the literary games they play are a bit much for the story -- and doesn't all fit neatly together, as she stretches the story quite far, but the narrative is almost always intriguing, at every turn, and the sense of menace is certainly effectively stoked all along.
       Not entirely satisfying -- it ranges too far in some of its very loose threads --, a great deal of Rock, Paper, Scissors is nevertheless captivating and despite occasional frustrations (especially of Thomas' actions and zoned-out inaction) it is almost never less than compelling.

- M.A.Orthofer, 18 August 2015

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Rock, Paper, Scissors: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Danish author Naja Marie Aidt was born in 1963.

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