An espionage thriller about rival U.S. and Chinese agencies seeking to develop the world's first “quantum computer," a machine that could decrypt the undecryptable and do it thousands of times faster than any existing supercomputer.
To anyone who has ever said that prize-winning Washington Post columnist and popular spy novelist David Ignatius is too much of an apologist for the CIA, his new book is a dramatic rebuttal. The Quantum Spy is a fascinating, beautifully textured thriller in which the CIA comes across as a racist, sexist institution whose biases play right into the hands of hostile foreign powers ... Ignatius even makes the scientific information on quantum computers comprehensible to the lay reader. Nor is there too much of it ... As entertaining as this novel is, it’s also disturbing in its depiction of racial and gender prejudice in a place where these attitudes aren’t simply unjust; they get in the way of the institution’s worthy mission ... for inside dope on the day-to-day work and personal lives among America’s espionage personnel, Ignatius is unbeatable.
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 ... The mood is mournful and restrained. The C.I.A.’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.
...[a] fascinating thriller ... [Ignatious] supplies plenty of up-to-date technical information in the course of telling his involving and realistic-seeming story ... The Quantum Spy jets from Seattle to Singapore, from Mexico City to Amsterdam. There’s even the occasional touch of humor.