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 greed—he 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 places—or exist and not exist—simultaneously. 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 fun—and the complex intrigue will please thriller fans.