In a rising Saudi Arabian city, far from weary, recession-scarred America, a struggling businessman pursues a last-ditch attempt to stave off foreclosure, pay his daughter’s college tuition, and finally do something great. In A Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers takes us around the world to show how one man fights to hold himself and his splintering family together in the face of the global economy’s gale-force winds. This taut, richly layered, and elegiac novel is a powerful evocation of our contemporary moment — and a moving story of how we got here.
Eggers's first unabashedly fictional, original novel in some time nonetheless grounds itself as firmly in the real world as Zeitoun or What is the What. Businessman Alan Clay has reached middle age with experience in manufacturing and door-to-door salesmanship considered almost wholly anachronistic and in post-industrial America, "as intriguing... as an airplane built from mud." Deeply in debt and unable to continue paying for his daughter Kit to go to college, Alan finds himself in Saudi Arabia awaiting the arrival of "the Kingdom's" elusive monarch for a chance to pitch his employer, Reliant, as the information technology supplier for a massive new King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) development. In limbo, Alan writes letters to Kit that he'll never mail, frets about his health (he's discovered a growth on his neck), and wrestles with insecurity over his past personal and business failings. This conflation of Waiting for Godot and Save the Tiger is unsurprising, if sympathetic, in its portrait of a global economy with all the solidity of a sandcastle. Eggers strikes fresh and genuine notes, however, in Alan's burgeoning friendship with the young Saudi man, Yousef, assigned to be his driver. Both Eggers's fans and those previously resistant to his work will find a spare but moving elegy for the American century.