Book Review: A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
October 5, 2012 20 Comments
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Number of pages: 302 (my Dutch edition)
First published: 2012 (USA, my Dutch edition, Een hologram voor de koning, 2012)
I got this book: from the library
Genre: contemporary fiction
Extra: See my review of Zeitoun by Dave Eggers.
I hate waiting! I hate queues. OK, I bring a book with me where ever I go, so I don’t get bored, but I expect to be seen at the arranged time. And queuing up for things? No thanks. Generally, it’s not worth it.
In this book there are no queues but there is a lot of waiting. Waiting for the King. The King of Saudi Arabia doesn’t make arrangements with businessmen. He turns up at unpredictable times for security reasons. So when Alan Clay and his team go to Saudi Arabia to demonstrate their new invention to the King, they don’t know how long they will have to wait.
Their invention is a system that can make a holographic representation of someone who is not actually present, so you can have meetings with people from all over the world, without meeting up in real life. It’s obviously just the thing the King needs, so he can be present at any time at any place, without having to worry about security.
Alan is in his fifties and his life is a mess (note that this is often the case with middle-aged men in fiction). He has no money, and he will soon have to tell his daughter that she has to interrupt her studies because of lack of funds. He’s divorced, one of his friends committed suicide. This deal with the King is his last hope to get his life back on track. He should get a good commission from the 100 million or so deal.
And then in Saudi Arabia, he can’t sleep or he sleeps too long. In the morning, his team members have often left the hotel before him, and he has found a driver who will get him to the place where the meeting, when ever it happens, will take place. This is in a city that is being built in the middle of the desert. For some reason, Alan and his team are given a party tent-like accommodation where they are supposed to wait for the King every day. It’s warm and the Wifi connection, which they rely on for their presentation, doesn’t always work.
It’s one big misery! I would run. Forget about the millions, I’d be out of there. No waiting for me in a hot tent without proper facilities. It could be days, weeks and even months before the King shows up in that tent. And meanwhile, Alan wakes up in his hotel every day, calls the driver, who becomes a friend, drives out to the new city, spends hours with his team in the tent, gets hold of some liquor, and spends most nights on his own in his hotel room.
Yes, I loved this book. I love it when things go wrong (but not too wrong). I love it when I can shout from the side lines and tell people what to do differently. Besides being a funny story, it also had some deeper themes: middle-aged life and how to deal with it, the effect that foreign manufacturing of goods has on a country (Alan lost his previous job because of Chinese competition), relationships.
Read it when you want a light story with serious undertones in an easy-going writing style.
Have you read this book?
Did you enjoy it?