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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars LOST IN TRANSITION
Dave Eggers' "A Hologram for the King" is both an entertaining satire of the at times surreal expatriate experience in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a deeper meditation on the hollowing out of the American industrial economy.

In fiction, business executives are generally stereotyped as either sinister or feckless. "Hologram's" Alan Clay is of the familiar...
Published on 12 Aug 2012 by Diacha

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars intersting but inconclusive
I enjoyed this meandering tale but would struggle to recommend it. The central character is endearing and interesting but the plot is a bit thin.
Published 5 months ago by cburrow


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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars LOST IN TRANSITION, 12 Aug 2012
By 
Dave Eggers' "A Hologram for the King" is both an entertaining satire of the at times surreal expatriate experience in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a deeper meditation on the hollowing out of the American industrial economy.

In fiction, business executives are generally stereotyped as either sinister or feckless. "Hologram's" Alan Clay is of the familiar second type. He is 54, divorced, broke, and having been made serially redundant from well-known companies (notably Schwinn the late bicycle manufacturer) he is striving to eke out an existence as an under-employed consultant. Somehow, on the basis of a tenuous connection to a member of the KSA royal family and his client's ignorance, he lands what is potentially a game changing contract to lead the sales pitch of Reliant (the world's largest IT concern) to the King Abdullah Economic City ("KAEC as in cake") that is being built near Jeddah.

Alan's experience in KSA will be familiar to most western travelers to the Kingdom. He turns up for confirmed meetings only to find that his counterparty is out of the country. He passes a military checkpoint where a close to comatose soldier dangles his feet in an inflatable pool to keep cool; he encounters three dozen south Asian workers dense-packed in a semi finished luxury apartment while one floor above, a Saudi salesman occupies a similar apartment equipped to the highest standard of luxury; he discovers illicit rot-gut liquor; he gets invited to a drunken party at a Nordic embassy, and so on.

Eggers is not especially concerned to ridicule Saudi Arabia, though its absurdities make for easy satire. His main "message" is the passing of America's industrial age. Alan reflects on this constantly throughout his trip, often in the form of unsent letters to his daughter, whose tuition he is about to fail to pay. Great companies have disappeared, the capitalists having sold to China the intellectual property rope to hang themselves. When Alan develops his own wistful business plan to make high end bikes:" Some of the bank people were so young they'd never seen a business proposal suggesting manufacturing things in the state of Massachusetts." When young people, such as the three techies accompanying him on his pitch, have jobs they are to do things in cyberspace while everything in the real world, even the bridges they drive over, is made in Asia. In this new world, there is no real place for people like Alan who used to be the mainstay of the American dream.

Eggers' lightness of touch in his confident, crystal clear prose is balanced by his insertion of haunting scenes and images: Alan's self-lancing of a sinister growth on his neck with a steak knife, flashbacks to the suicide of his close friend in a Walden-like pond, memories of a shuttle launch, a strange hunting incident, a loss of sexual appetite at a moment of opportunity. Eggers' message sticks: Alan may belong to the feckless stereotype, but for a growing number of middle class Americans that is the only role that is left.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eggers shapes Clay., 21 April 2013
By 
Sue Kichenside - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Fiftysomething Alan Clay is a low-key kinda guy. He is going through some sort of existential late mid-life crisis but even that is a low-key kinda breakdown. Financially strapped, he is dependent on closing a gazillion dollar deal with King Abdullah in Saudi's new city-in-the-making. But when he eventually arrives at the nascent King Abdullah Economic City, there's no sign of the king and Clay enters a Kafkaesque world where his already shaky grip on things becomes even more precarious.

This loss of grip is reflected in the underlying thrust of the story - the loss of manufacturing in the States and the economic rise of China. Unfortunately, this reader's interest tailed off somewhat for the last third of the book when Eggers digresses from these twin themes to go on a couple of detours but nevertheless this is a terrific read from a terrific writer.

You can see Alan Clay so clearly that it's as if he is standing right in front of you and Dave Eggers portrays the anomalies of life in the Kingdom so well it's as if you are there. Whilst many aspects of what is happening to Clay are really quite sad and touching, this is a very humorous read. Clay's car journeys with his driver Yousef, a wonderfully drawn character, are hilarious. 4.5*
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Death of Sales Men, 20 April 2013
By 
Robert Cordner (Northern Ireland, UK) - See all my reviews
Eggers novel reads like a contemporary take on Arthur Miller's famous play, Death of a Salesman. It not only manages to expose the hollowness of a relatively unsuccessful commercial life, but places it in the context of globalisation. The decline of America is juxtaposed with the rise of China. But it is its setting, Saudi Arabia, which suggests that the spread of capitalism consequent on US decline is very thin indeed. Like the new desert city planned by the Saudi king, it confuses aspiration for reality in the business speak which masquerades as the new lingua franca. The novel's message is both highly local and global, individual and societal. As we are all increasingly herded into `competition' with one another, on the basis it will encourage dynamism and success, the results are often the very opposite: mediocrity, lack of sufficient resources, and worst of all, self-deception. This is definitely a novel of its time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bad day at the office, 23 Oct 2013
This review is from: A Hologram for the King (Paperback)
This is a good-humoured novel that both pokes fun at the great pointlessness of so much of what is 'work' these days - endless team meetings, presentations and 'tech solutions' that seem to go nowhere - and despairs at it all at the same time.

The American middle-aged protagonist Alan Clay is sent to Saudi Arabia to pitch for an IT contract for a new city in the desert with a couple of younger colleagues, hoping for an audience with the king, whose permission they need. He is debt-ridden, worried about paying fees to send his daughter to college, anxious about his health (he has a non-malign growth on his neck), and deeply frustrated at selling something he doesn't understand - IT - rather than something concrete and 'real'. He used to work for a bike manufacturer in the US... but under his watch the company failed.

As well as the sense that everything he does is nebulous and intangible (he really hasn't a clue what the youngsters are doing in their plan for a hologram presentation to the king), the book touches on the global shift of America's power to oil-rich Middle Eastern countries and to the far east. Everything feels as though it is in decline... America, honest decent work (rather than techy stuff), and even his own body. There's a touch of Death of a Salesman about it all.

The 'young people' are taking over. The Asians, as Alan's father says, are 'making actual things over there, and we're making websites and holograms. Every day our people are making their websites and holograms, while we're sitting in chairs made in China, working on computers made in China, driving over bridges made in China. Does this sound sustainable to you, Alan?'

It's all too much for him to handle - too big to grapple with - and he turns inwards and seeks 'simple' pleasures (such as drinking illegal local hooch and enjoying a new romance). He plods along, with plenty of funny mishaps, while the world swirls around him.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Man in Arabia, 18 Feb 2013
A fine book, wryly humorous, narrated with confidence and restraint. The theme - the emptiness around us, and the importance of being able to identify and grasp the real - is handled at a number of levels, which prevents it becoming as depressing as it might sound. The protagonist, poor Alan Clay, is an homme moyen sensuel who has lost all his points of reference and is adrift in a world he no longer understands.

This is the first book I've read by Dave Eggers, and I'll certainly buy another.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lost in a globalised world, 21 Oct 2013
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Meet Alan. He's arrived in Jeddah for the chance of a lifetime, to revive a career that has seen much better times. He needs to really earn that final commission that is going to be the answer to all his problems. Things don't go as he had hoped and we are taken on a journey through Saudi and but also into Alan's soul. We meet his ex-wife, his much younger and keener work colleagues and a range of Saudi citizens, who variously help or hinder him. The book includes details on the decline of manufacturing in the USA,; the money markets; and a range of perspectives on Saudi society. We learn a lot and are gripped by how Alan gets by in a very alien place and how he comes to understand his past relationships and his emotional issues. Perhaps the book is an allegory for the way we live now? It certainly offers an extremeley well written gipping story about the place of an individual lost in a globalised world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A novel for the present ., 6 Oct 2013
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This review is from: A Hologram for the King (Paperback)
An engrossing and intelligent novel which is very thought provoking and a commentary on the present day situation in the world.
Well written in a muscular American style apart from the hero a little short on subtext
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars satiation, 28 Aug 2013
By 
A man without gorm (The north, England) - See all my reviews
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I have not enjoyed a read as much as A Hologram for the King for a long, long time. David Eggers has pulled off something rare here: he has kept this charming story (more an observation actually) completely devoid of smug, cerebral BS.

Like a good piece of aesthetic cinema, this book leaves you wanting more; it leaves a gentle impression of having encountered something good and simple and pure.

A parable with deferred pleasures.

Thank you David Eggers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars intersting but inconclusive, 13 April 2014
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I enjoyed this meandering tale but would struggle to recommend it. The central character is endearing and interesting but the plot is a bit thin.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read, 28 Mar 2014
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4.5 stars
Fantastic account of a sad man's mid-life crisis as he attempts to sell an elaborate software system to an Arab king. Brilliantly perceptive, touchingly human. A must read.
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A Hologram for the King
A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (Paperback - 5 Sep 2013)
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