Book Review: A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

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?

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

20 Responses to Book Review: A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

  1. Tesney Ap says:

    Judith, reading book makes waiting a little more bearable for me, too 🙂 And this book, wow 5 out of 5, it sounds really fantastic 🙂

  2. parrish lantern says:

    Although you describe this as a light read, the story ideal has appeal, the middle aged male with a boat load of problems does seem to be a recurring theme, along with stuck in foreign climes angle, it reminded me of the ghost of Neil Diamond by David Milne.

    • Leeswammes says:

      I don’t know *The Ghost of Neil Diamond*, Gary. It’s a recurring theme, that of middle-aged men, but in this case, the setting and the ideas behind it were quite new. I think you’d enjoy it.

  3. mnizaranwar says:

    Reblogged this on The Dreamer and commented:
    it’s amazing

  4. I loved Zeitoun, but the premise of this one doesn’t appeal. Your review makes me think I should try it anyway. Do you think I’d like it?

    • Leeswammes says:

      Jackie, I think you *might* like it. I know, that doesn’t help. Let’s say it like this: I’m not sure. It reminded me vaguely of the Maxwell Sims book, did you read that? But then without the ridiculous ending. 🙂

  5. Charlie says:

    I guess this must have a lot of discussion on the themes you’ve highlighted if the main plot is about waiting! I read a book very recently that had lots of waiting, but thankfully the narrative was sped up. It happens in the real world but in fiction it can seem like a filler.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Actually, Charlie, they skip a lot of days. You don’t get to read about all the waiting that is being done. Sometimes the main character goes and does other things on days that the King cannot possibly arrive because he’s abroad. So he’s off shooting in the hills, for instance. It’s never boring, for sure.

  6. bibliosue says:

    Wow. I had read another review of this book that was negative and I didn’t think any more of this book, but the way you describe it it actually sounds like something I want to read! Nice review!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Suzanne, if you know Eggers books you may be disappointed with this one for being rather easy story. I have only read *Zeitoun*, and I love the kind of story that *The Hologram for the King* is. I think you’d enjoy it.

  7. This is on my TBR list, Judith. I’m so glad you liked it: makes me look forward to reading it even more.

  8. Chinoiseries says:

    Sounds like an entertaining book, Judith! Does the story move forward fast enough though? I associate “waiting” with slow paced writing. Perhaps not the case with this book? I still have to read a book by Dave Eggers.

  9. JoV says:

    I like Maxwell Sim, I love Zeitoun, I like to read about Saudi Arabia… so this one goes into my wish list!

  10. I thought this was a book for me, and your review confirms it, Judith! Thanks 🙂

  11. I haven’t read Dave Eggers since A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which I loved, so I’m not sure why I’ve put it off. This looks great so maybe I’ll finally break the trend.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Kate, I have always thought *Dtaggering Genius *would be too literary for me- doesn’t it have stream of conscious writing too? I cannot stand that. * Hologram* is a very easy, and fun, read.

I love comments! Let me know what you think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: