Tuesday, February 26, 2013

{read: sales in Saudi Arabia} A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

I was expecting more from the acclaimed Dave Eggers. This was airy, aimless, and left me wanting some substance.

Alan is a sales rep from Reliant who goes to Saudi Arabia with a team of three young tech people to make a presentation to the king in hopes that Reliant will be chosen as the IT provider for a new city, KAEC, that's being built. But progress on the city is slow, no one knows when (or if) the king might even show up for the presentation, and the only reason Alan is included is because he met the king's nephew 20 years ago. He's depending on this sale and its commission to bail him out of his enormous debts and pay his daughter's college tuition.

Alan tries to strike up a friendship with a taxi driver who ferries him around and he takes part in a few lustful dalliances that score him alcohol and a day trip, but mostly he waits.

While this story was easy to read, I wanted more from it. Alan changes not at all throughout the book, the final scenes are anticlimactic, and I was left wondering what the point of the book is. Is it that the U.S. has outsourced everything without thinking of the consequences? Is it that we are all broken in some way, but we're more than the sum of our broken parts?

Either there was much more here and I just didn't read deeply enough to get it, or it was only what it seemed on the surface: a desperate man reaching for life preservers that will always elude his grasp. While some people like novels about quiet desperation and resignation, I've never been one of them. Perhaps this just wasn't my kind of book.

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (McSweeney's, 2012)
My rating: 2 stars

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