A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers


I saw this described somewhere as a Dave-Eggers-wild-ride-so-hang-on-tight book and found that to be pretty accurate (though I've not read any of his other books).  At first Alan Clay, the main character, seems to be a sad sack, a businessman from a bygone era, successful at Schwinn bikes, having presided over the moving of manufacturing oversees. We meet him as he arrives in Jeddah, the senior (and only non-techie) member of a team from a large IT company hoping to land the contract for the planned economic city King Abdullah Economic City. Nothing is as it appears in Saudi Arabia and Alan is ill-equipped to cope with the strange circumstances he encounters.

But Alan bumps into people who unaccountably like him and who can explain the incomprehensible to him. His driver who went to college in Alabama is back in Jeddah, has to check under the hood of his car as the husband of Yousef's girlfriend is threatening to kill him. He meets Maha who has a mysterious job in KAEC; she takes Alan under her wing most notably supplying him with moonshine so he can sleep. And because he has a growth on his neck that he has become convinced is attached to his spine, he gets to know a female doctor who not only removes his growth but takes him to swim and make love in her family beach place.  

Alan careens around from one dangerous activity to another:  shooting guns with Yousef and friends at the family fortress in the mountains, swimming almost naked with a woman he hardly knows, getting drunk with a stranger in KAEC. Ridiculous though he was, Alan becomes more appealing somehow. 

Eggers makes a full-throated denunciation of American business practices in the era that resulted in manufacturing moving out of the country.  He also rails more than once about people living in localities that do not support life readily. Having written a book set in New Orleans during Katrina may make that thought occur to an author.

Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King, McSweeney's, 328 pages (I listened to the audiobook). 




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