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The Quantum Spy: A Thriller by David…

The Quantum Spy: A Thriller

by David Ignatius

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Not science fiction, but fiction (on China-vs-USA espionage) involving advances in computer science and physics (quantum computation specifically). The latter aspect was my reason for reading the book. I imagined (confirmed in the concluding acknowledgements) that newspaper columnist Ignatius must have had some expert help in making the technical passages as accurate and interesting as they are. And yes the spy-war story does get very exciting towards the end.
  fpagan | Feb 12, 2018 |
A new author for me. I found the story very plausible but highly technical and involved. The action was minimal but the tension was intense. For a bit of a "Luddite" the immersion into quantum computing was almost overwhelming. I honestly can't say I understand in any better after reading the book - but then again it is not meant to be an instruction manual. ( )
  labdaddy4 | Jan 16, 2018 |
An ok story. Interesting take on quantum computing. Didn't buy the ease at which the CIA agent was mind manipulated by the Chinese. ( )
  Doondeck | Dec 18, 2017 |
In "The Quantum Spy" (QS) Acknowledgements, author David Ignatius writes: "This novel explores how the U. S. Government oversees technology." Oversees? In the first chapters, a small, West Coast high tech firm is visited by a government contact, ostensibly to review the progress of the government funded startup. After the review, the CEO is advised by Mr. Green that it is time to "go black" - time to stop all public announcements of their advances, time to step-up security, link more closely with government overseers, etc. The CEO/Founder balks, proclaiming the benefits of a world-wide sharing of scientific advances, the independence that scientists.....The intelligence agent states his case, and the CEO begrudgingly concedes.

So, what's the big deal about quantum computers (yawn)? From QS: "...it would take a classical computer more than ten million years to factor a fifty-digit number, whereas it would take less than a second on a quantum computer...All (existing) codes could be decrypted and read." The reader will learn a bit more about quantum computers - they exist only on paper, and efforts have been underway to develop the hardware for years - and that's all you need to know on the subject. Naturally there is a spy vs. spy race.

And there's so much more in this great spy novel. Yes, there's a mole in a U.S. agency. A high level one, with a relative associated with the agency. There is also a high level Chinese spy caught by the Americans with his fingers in the till and some other naughty places; the Chinese want revenge. The plot moves nicely along at a delicious pace, and the story hops from Europe to Canada to Mexico and even to my hometown! And there is a grand big showdown with a nice twisty but not all-together unexpected finale. Where? That turns out to be the critical, unanswered question - how can the agency cover their asset if the meeting location is unknown? Will quantum technology help?

Wait, there's still more. David Ignatius is a serious writer, a journalist for the Washington Post, an author of nine other excellent novels, and a frequent contributor to Morning Joe (he's the adult in the group, the big picture guy). Ignatius also offers us an introspective look at Harris Chang, a U.S. Intelligence Officer. Ignatius makes a strong argument in the Acknowledgement that this story is pure fiction and little is real. But the rather depressing inner workings and relationships in the U S Agency as described here seem to be too close to our enemy counterparts. U S Agents must be focused on their self-protection not only in the field but in the office as well. There is also a theme of how American citizens of a different skin color and foreign roots assimilate and are viewed by others. This comes up many times, hitting us with a not so gentle reminder of how difficult we make life for some of our fellow citizens. Not just in certain regions of our country but in one of our more respected intelligence agencies. Harris Chang: "But I began to see that to my American colleagues, I will always be Chinese. That is the first thing they see. The color of my skin." ( )
  maneekuhi | Dec 1, 2017 |
I eagerly awaited the release of David Ignatius' latest, 'The Quantum Spy', and I now feel my eagerness was wasted. Ignatius, who has penned some of my favorite spy novels and is well-regarded for not only his writing chops but also his deep knowledge of foreign affairs and the CIA, has delivered a poorly planned thriller with a transparent plot and laughably poor dialogue. Don't get me wrong, there are a few good sections and the whole thing is readable (especially if you pretend that it's by a generic thriller writer instead of Ignatius), but he set a high bar for himself that isn't reached by this effort.

The plot involves Quantum Computing, the next 'big thing' and a source of extreme competition between the US and Chinese. The Americans are making progress, but a 'mole' in the CIA is providing intel to the Chinese, and the CIA pulls out all stops to discover who it is. A young ex-armed forces American of Chinese descent is engaged to help, and he finds himself being recruited by the Chinese. The Americans think they've determined the identity of the mole (through a rather haphazard process) but rapidly change directions (a silly move done with virtually no thorough analysis I could see) when more information comes to light. In the meantime, internecine warfare among the Chinese agencies continues to put pressure on their side for results. The end is pretty predictable.

Guess I'll look forward to his next, which will hopefully be a bounce-back to previous form. ( )
  gmmartz | Nov 16, 2017 |
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A hyper-fast quantum computer is the digital equivalent of a nuclear bomb: whoever possesses one will be able to shred any encryption in existence, effectively owning the digital world. The question is: Who will build it first, the United States or China? The latest of David Ignatius's timely, sharp-eyed espionage novels follows CIA agent Harris Chang into a quantum research lab compromised by a suspected Chinese informant. The breach provokes a mole hunt that is obsessive, destructive, and--above all--uncertain: Do the leaks expose real secrets, or are they false trails meant to deceive the Chinese? Chang soon finds that there is a thin line between loyalty and betrayal, as the investigation leads him down a rabbit hole as dangerous as it is deep. Grounded in the real-world global charge toward technological dominance, The Quantum Spy presents a sophisticated game of cat-and-mouse wired to an exhilarating cyber thriller.… (more)

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