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Cover image for The quantum spy : a thriller
Format:
Title:
The quantum spy : a thriller
ISBN:
9780393254150

9780393356243

9781432845261
Edition:
First edition.
Publication:
New York, NY : W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., [2018]
Physical Description:
323 pages ; 25 cm
Summary:
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.
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Ignatius
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FICTION - IGNATIUS
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Ignatius
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FIC IGNATIUS 2017
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FICTION IGNATIUS
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Ignatius, D.
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FIC IGNATIUS
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IGNATIUS David
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Summary

Summary

A hyper-fast quantum computer is the digital equivalent of a nuclear bomb; whoever possesses one will be able to shred any encryption and break any code in existence. The winner of the race to build the world's first quantum machine will attain global dominance for generations to come. The question is, who will cross the finish line first: the U.S. or China?In this gripping cyber thriller, the United States' top-secret quantum research labs are compromised by a suspected Chinese informant, inciting a mole hunt of history-altering proportions. CIA officer Harris Chang leads the charge, pursuing his target from the towering cityscape of Singapore to the lush hills of the Pacific Northwest, the mountains of Mexico, and beyond. The investigation is obsessive, destructive, and--above all--uncertain. Do the leaks expose real secrets, or are they false trails meant to deceive the Chinese? The answer forces Chang to question everything he thought he knew about loyalty, morality, and the primacy of truth.Grounded in the real-world technological arms race, The Quantum Spy presents a sophisticated game of cat and mouse cloaked in an exhilarating and visionary thriller.


Author Notes

David Ignatius is a prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post and has been covering the Middle East and the CIA for nearly three decades. He has written several New York Times bestsellers, most recently The Director. He lives in Washington, D.C.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Will the U.S. or China build the world's first quantum computer? That's the question at the heart of this fine espionage thriller from Ignatius (The Director). The Americans appear to have the edge through a company in Seattle-actually a front for the CIA-that's developing the superfast technology. But the Chinese are just a step behind thanks to corporate theft and good old-fashioned tradecraft; they have managed to turn a disgruntled CIA officer into a spy for the Ministry of State Security. Meanwhile, Harris Chang, an American interrogation specialist new to Langley, uses his Chinese heritage to infiltrate Beijing's intelligence operations in the U.S. and secretly keep tabs on the Chinese efforts to achieve dominance. In past books, Ignatius has been better at characterization; Chang, for example, at times behaves in ways that seem too naive for a well-trained professional. Still, Ignatius's realistic peek into the inner workings of the CIA and its Chinese counterpart shows why he's at the top of the thriller pack. Agent: Raphael Sagalyn, Sagalyn/ICM. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

China and the U.S. scramble for cyberdomination in this spy thriller by Washington Post columnist and bestselling novelist Ignatius (The Director, 2014, etc.).Like the Chinese, the Americans want the quantum computing technology being developed by Quantum Engineering Dynamics. Whichever power possesses the technology can decrypt the undecryptable and do it thousands of times faster than any existing supercomputer. No adversary will ever be able to keep a secret again. In fact, such a contraption can even replicate the very essence of human thought. But QED isn't selling to anyone for any price. Meanwhile, CIA agent Harris Chang visits the hotel room of Chinese computer scientist Dr. Ma Yubo at a conference in Singapore, hoping to turn him into a spy. Ma's fundamental weakness is greedhe wants to be rich, to support a family in China and a mistress in Vancouver. Chang is an "ABC," or American-Born Chinese, who grew up in Arizona, graduated from West Point and bleeds "red, white, and blue." But when he steals Dr. Ma's mijian, or diary, Ma commits suicide instead of cooperating. From the diary, the CIA learns that Ma kept "notes on all the dirty deals made by his friends in the [Ministry of State Security]." But most important, the CIA learns of the existence of a mole in the CIA named Rukou. So the chase is on: find the mole and get the technology even though serious doubt exists about whether a quantum computer is even a possibility. Such a device would operate at nearly absolute zero temperature, where superpositioned particles do strange things like exist in two placesor exist and not existsimultaneously. That's the stuff of quantum physics, which itself is probably sense and nonsense at the same time. The story moves along well, weaving in the author's extensive research without slowing the pace. While the science gets geeky in spots, it's still funand the complex intrigue will please thriller fans. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


New York Review of Books Review

IF OUR heroes disclose who we wish to be, our villains reveal what we fear we may become. Take an autopsy of the word: Villain derives from the Middle English villein, meaning "a rustic, boor," a person of the lower classes with "uncouth mind and manner." ft's a pejorative etymology that illustrates not only how elites in the Middle Ages controlled history and language, but also the anxieties around those who were poor yet free, a state considered suspect. Thus, villeins were blamed for the evils disrupting an otherwise peaceful world. And so it has gone throughout history. To be human is to be afraid of the unknown - of the dark closets of our world, wherever they happen to be. Inside these closets, we have imagined a variety of gruesome things lurking, encapsulating our nightmares and giving a face to our terrors. For a while - starting with the "Epic of Gilgamesh" chiseled onto a tablet 4,000 years go - our villains were gods and monsters hiding out in the heavens and oceans, treating humans like their own personal set of Legos. With the rise of Christianity, Satan started to prowl folk tales and epic poems, luring us off the path to salvation. The Industrial Revolution led to a spate of high-ranking, powerhungry scoundrels like Inspector Javert and Dracula. The Victorian fascination with madness gave us an indelible squad of deranged harpies (Miss Havisham, Bertha Rochester, Lady Audley, to name a few). Two world wars, and all the best villains went global, scaling evil across continents, races, the future. The 1960s and Vietnam uprooted our institutions and questioned our freedoms, so we got Nurse Ratched, Catch-22s, Alex and a bunch of droogs. Then there was the Cold War, which hatched a flurry of thugs named Vlad who ruthlessly rolled their R's as they crept out from behind the Iron Curtain. We can trust villains to be our periodic mental health checkup. They tell us what we're losing sleep over, how we're feeling as a whole. Given the state of the world today - a bombastic political scene, the screen addictions and deluge of news, the conflict that has become our ambient sound - one would expect an uptick in psychotic cops, underground terrorist networks, tyrants with inexplicable hair and small hands. Instead, a dive into 2017's crop of thrillers reveals an even more disturbing kind of villain. MATT RICHTELS DEAD ON ARRIVAL, (William Morrow/HarperCoMins, $26.99) is an intellectual thrill ride that tucks searing social critique into the Trojan horse of a save-the-world page-turner. The premise is not unfamiliar to anyone who has seen "Contagion": Our hero is Dr. Lyle Martin, a downat-heel infectious disease specialist who is a cross between Keith Richards and "a thirty-something Harrison Ford, the disheveled version, but hunting for disease and not treasure." Dr. Martin lands in Steamboat Springs, Colo., to attend a virology conference only to discover some startling news: Everyone at the airport - and in America at large - appears to be dead. Of course, this is a post-" Da Vinci Code" world in which no thriller can turn up with a single, white male expert (prone to the odd quip while staring down the end of civilization) without recalling Robert Langdon, he of the black turtlenecks and the knack for symbols. Thankfully, Richtel, a science and technology reporter for The New York Times, ignores this potential comparison and gets down to the nuts and bolts of his story, which he assembles with transcendentalist ease. We descend into the covert inner sanctum at Google X, where our nation's brightest geeks toil over secret projects within secret projects. We fly to Tanzania during a mysterious pandemic, wander a ski town-turned-ghost town and an unmarked bunker in the Nevada desert. Martin - and the reader - have little clue what is causing people to dissolve into a state of catatonia with fixed pupils and flailing limbs until we pick up on the anxiety running through Richtel's narrative like one of Trent Reznor's dark guitar chords: "Wasn't this what was happening everywhere? A new hyperskepticism, everything politicized, facts tossed out as partisan and any faith in humanity with it." "We can see that the pace of media, the onslaught of conflict-centric communications, stokes the flames of hostility." " Instead of even trying to figure out what was right, people buried themselves in their devices. People talked to you while looking at their phones, lost in entirely different realities." A description of Google's influence sounds indistinguishable from the mysterious infectious diseases Dr. Martin treats: "ft was insinuated in every facet of people's lives, from work and driving, music, television, every form of communications." From there the true culprit comes into focus. Though at first glance the solution appears to be only another mastermind who has commandeered technology for personal gain, Richtel leaves us with the more sinister suggestion that the true villain is us and there's nothing to be done about it. ft's an illness we all have, and there is no cure. Most of us don't even know that we're sick. "I can't tell which is the immune system anymore and which the disease - whether we're defending or attacking ourselves," Jackie, a Google employee whom Martin long ago rescued from death, admits. He might have been talking about the comments section on HuffPost. A similar widespread villainy lies at the heart of David Ignatius's the quantum spy (Norton, $25.95), a somber espionage procedural about the race to build the world's first quantum computer - a theoretical frontier at the intersection of computer science and quantum physics. Ignatius is a Washington Post columnist who has long covered the C.I.A., and he happily takes us for a jaunt through a world of anonymous hotel rooms and conference tables across Beijing and Vancouver and Dubai, where decisions to take someone off "the shelf" (i.e., bring him or her back into action) are blankly relayed and executed. American startups on the brink of game-changing innovation are visited by ? C.I.A. officer, a "lean, putty-faced man with a bad haircut" who quietly demands for the United States government to be their only client. Operatives aspire to the "highest art" of their profession: to "appear ordinary." Here, the ostensible enemy is a mole inside the C.I.A. known as Rukou, or the Doorway, whom the C.I.A. must ferret out and eliminate, all the while keeping the Chinese away from their technological breakthroughs - a Sisyphean exercise if ever there was one. The mood is mournful and restrained. The C.LA.'s vibe feels like a highway motel with thin walls, a smell of chlorine, a vending machine where your Twix gets stuck on the glass. The most delightful aspect of the book is the characterization of the Chinese - their expletive-ridden insults, downbeat perspective ("Bad luck is always hiding inside the doorway, down the next hutong"), and quirks. Chinese agents carry a mijiart with them at all times, "a small, leatherbound diary" in which they write things "that were never, ever to be shared." In one fascinating scene set in Mexico, a Chinese agent with a Spanish accent unnerves the Chinese-American hero, Harris Chang, by unveiling Chang's own secret political Chinese ancestry to him. It proves to be a surprisingly powerful interrogation technique: "He was uncomfortable. It was as if someone else had taken possession of his life story." It comes to light that the mole is motivated by a desire to build "one world" - a single borderless country that brings to mind Facebook's hope to "bring the world closer together." But infinitely more devastating than any double agent is the operating hollowness at the heart of the C.I.A. When superiors question Chang's loyalty, he submits to three polygraphs; however no lie detector can resolve the problem. Neither innocent nor guilty, he is afflicted by a lack of resolve: "He occupied a space where things are ambiguous, where people are simultaneously friend and foe, loyal and disloyal, impossible to define until the moment when events intervene and force each particle, each heart, to one side or the other." The agentis a spinning electron in the atom, eluding capture by a Heisenberg uncertainty principle. There is the probability of an exact location, which holds true only during the nanosecond of perception. Then he is at large again, careening around a moral fog. IN MICHELLE RICHMOND'S THE MARRIAGE PACT (Bantam, $27), a different kind of evil is in play, this one just as intangible and pernicious. Giddy and in love, two Bay Area newlyweds, Alice and Jake, receive a Molotov cocktail of a wedding present: an invitation to join "The Pact," a hushhush society-cum-cult, the details of which are pitched to them "Glengarry Glen Ross"-style by Vivian, a beautiful woman in a yellow dress with a politician's pivot and spin. The Pact is a "fellowship of like-minded individuals" dedicated to ensuring the survival of that exotic, captive animal known as your marriage. It was founded by an Irish woman named Orla who, sequestered on a remote island, wrote a step-by-step system for matrimony, one that is "highly effective, scientifically based." Pact members will act unilaterally to keep you and your spouse together and happy, no matter what. Few couples of sound mind would agree to such a proposal, particularly one that requires signing a contract filled with an "impenetrable veil of doublespeak and legalese." But Alice and Jake - apparently ascribing to the Trumpian life philosophy, "Shoot first and ask questions later" - agree to Vivian's terms. They soon find themselves marooned in the guest houses of Pact members, following dinner parties replete with "an impressively large stack of profiteroles," where they chat with women who say things like: "Stupid mushrooms. Just when I had the yard looking so perfect, they popped up today." Jake is pulled aside by another Pact member, an old college flame named JoAnne who is paranoid and skittish. She gets down to brass tacks: "I would've stopped it, Jake. I could've saved you. Now it's too late." It's a fun, can't-stop-eating-the-potato-chips kind of premise. Jake - a marriage counselor who has little insight into his own relationships - descends into a labyrinth of paranoia and isolation as he investigates the truth behind The Pact, all the while lying to his wife and enduring one level of punishment after the next. (Apparently, when it comes to marital harmony, de Sade was really on to something.) The book is at its strongest when Richmond describes The Pact's manual in a wickedly deadpan style. It sounds like something between a tutorial for new guards on Rikers Island and Marriage™ by the Mad Hatter: "Failure to provide three or more gifts in a single calendar year should be treated as a Class 5 Felony." Then there is the Focus Mechanism, one of a range of contraptions designed to help you stay attentive to your significant other (QVC, take note): "The collar circles her neck, extending all the way up to her jawline, where it cups her chin." As Jake gets shadowed by unmarked black Lexus S.U.V.s, receives mysterious packages and wakes up dazed aboard a Cessna with dried blood on his head, it becomes clear that the force of evil is only a matter of perspective. Like back at the C.I.A., there really are no good guys or bad guys here, only floundering players. In Christopher Swann's first novel, shadow of the lions (Algonquin, $26.95), we are whisked into another type of cult: Blackburne, an elite all-boys private school in the Virginia countryside, rife with its own odd rituals and unspoken understandings. "A warning shake of the head meant Watch out." "Cutting your eyes away from a classmate you passed in the hall could be as cruel as sneering in his face." Our protagonist is Matthias Glass - a washed-up writer who, after a well-received debut novel and a stint around New York's literary scene with a "long-legged, pouty" model (Swann has taken some liberties), returns to the prep school of his youth to solve a mystery that has dogged him since graduation. One night, after an argument, his best friend Fritz Davenport, old-money scion and golden boy, ran away from Matthias in the woods - and "off the edge of the earth." He was never seen again. Swann takes his time setting up this mystery, with Matthias chasing down forgotten clues and overlooked conversations while being tested by the boys who sit in his class "in a sort of numb acceptance, as if they were on Novocain." Swann does a wonderful job depicting these lost boys, the puzzling kinetics of friendship, competition and status, all of which feels out of date and menacing - the desire to "conquer girls with all the rough ease of a 007," or how being labeled gay constituted "the worst, most devastating blow" that left the accused "cast into the outer darkness." Blackburne feels like an unmanned ship where anything could happen. Yet, when the villain is revealed, there is little move toward accountability, only continued silence and deceit. Evil is left to its own devices, out of reach. Matthias is shaken and powerless. He recalls Hamlet's letter to Ophelia as detailing a reality where everything should be questioned and nothing is true: "Doubt thou the stars are fire, / Doubt that the sun doth move, / Doubt truth to be a liar, / But never doubt I love." It's the same moral haze Harris Chang and the other heroes got lost in, the only difference being a momentary comfort found in friendship. DANYA KUKAFKA'S BEWITCHING first novel, GIRL IN SNOW (Simon & Schuster, $26), spins a spell of mournful confession around a "Twin Peaks"-like centerpiece, the beautiful girl found dead: " Lucinda Hayes broke her neck. Cracked it on the edge of the carousel." The truth is revealed through the claustrophobic confessions of three misfits, observations Kukafka gently takes out and holds up to the light as if sifting through a refuse-filled gutter after a rain. There is Russ, the restrained police officer investigating Lucinda's murder; Jade, a resentful fellow classmate who makes sense of people and events by stuffing them into the skeletal format of a screenplay; and Cameron, the obsessive loner who stalked Lucinda: "Cameron had started playing Statue Nights when he was 12 years old." In Kukafka's capable hands, villainy turns out to be everywhere and nowhere, a DNA that could be found under the fingernails of everybody's hands. In THE MURDERS OF MOLLY SOUTHBOURNE (Tor/Forge, paper, $11.99), a scold's bridle of a coming-of-age tale by Tade Thompson, we meet the protagonist of the title agonizing in her "universe defined by pain." Every time Molly bleeds, the blood gives birth to a dimwitted, monstrous version of herself, a ghoulish other "molly" who, after a period of incubation, blasts out of doors and from under the bed, bloodthirsty and dangerous. Molly must kill these doppelgängers before they kill her. And thus unspools a horrifying childhood. She learns to murder and dispose of human flesh with the precision of a Tarantino fixer ("When her parents arrive she is lying on a pile of corpses she'd been trying to clean"), all the while enjoying the ABCs of adolescence: first kisses, running away from home, Rudyard Kipling. The most compelling aspects of the book are not just Thompson's dagger prose ("In these teenage years she kills three mollys a week, sometimes as many as one a day"), but also the blunt paragraphs and truncated chapters through which he reveals Molly's reality. It has the effect of a slide show in Art History 101. In darkness, we are shown a series of close-ups: gnarled hand, decapitated head, a foot, some blood, fragments that make little sense until the final portrait is revealed. It's as unsettling as one of Francis Bacon's screaming popes, or the Lucian Freud painting "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping": a bold outpouring of flesh and crisis at once horrifying and familiar. Molly with the capital M is the narrator, the original, true Molly, and Thompson does an excellent job dangling questions of authenticity and judgment before us like meat scraps before caged dogs. Is Molly the good one simply because she is the real Molly, the more advanced Molly? Do we root for her only because we are privy to her thoughts, and thus understand her better than we understand the mute monsters who come lurching out of the dark, the ones whose stories are unknown to us? The book exposes the arbitrary way we choose sides, perceiving a hero and villain through the murky lens of what is personal and understandable. The book works best as a metaphor. For most of us, our most pernicious villain is our self. To keep our higher selves thriving, we must do what Molly does daily - slay our lesser, reptilian selves, the ones who thrive on fear, ego, conflict. In this book, just as in the others, there is no grand confrontation, no ultimate obliteration of evil. There is only an exhausted detente, a passing of the baton from the killer to the killed. The villain becomes the hero. We are left with a portrait of villainy that feels, like the customer service number for an app, extremely hard to pin down. Villainy is no longer the fixed force of yesteryear. It has no face and no center; it's spread out across everything. It is confusing and exhausting. And it triumphs, time and again, for it causes heroes to throw up their hands and simply wander off mid-battle, numbed by the apparent futility of it all. If villains are a litmus test for our collective mental state, the prognosis isn't good. It seems these days we're not only uncertain of everything and everyone - foreigners, friends, institutions, experts, the people in our beds, the thoughts in our heads - we're also feeling too dazed to do anything about it. If this is the new, all-inclusive, everywhere darkness for 2017, where can evil go in 2018, and beyond? Maybe Cormac McCarthy was right when he wrote, "Keep a little fire burning; however small, however hidden." So, pass the matches. It's going to be a long night. ? maris ha PESSL is the author of the novels "Night Film" and "Special Topics in Calamity Physics." Her next book, "Neverworld Wake," will be published in 2018. Villainy is no longer the fixed force of yesteryear. It has no face and no center; it's spread out across everything.


Library Journal Review

"Like I said, pull on the thread. Eventually, no more sweater." That's the advice that CIA spook Harris Chang receives from his boss as he searches for a mole inside the agency. Someone is reporting to the Chinese on U.S. efforts to develop a quantum computer, a machine powerful enough to crack any code in lightning time. Chang's search is a process of small steps. Often he's in the dark; sometimes he doesn't know whether he's sleuth or bait. But once he gains some leverage, he uses it to gain more, then more, until the truth, or a semblance of it, comes into view. In his tenth spy thriller, Washington Post columnist Ignatius (The Director) demonstrates again his superior storytelling skills. This engrossing tale of spy vs. counterspy rockets back and forth from Washington, DC, to CIA headquarters in Langley, VA, to Beijing, with stops along the way in Dubai, Singapore, Mexico City, Kyoto, and Amsterdam. In this sly, fast-moving story, everyone is hiding something. The trick is finding out what-and then using that knowledge for one's own ends. VERDICT Ignatius's latest is up to his usual high standards and should appeal to all lovers of spy fiction.-David Keymer, Cleveland © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.