(Audio)Book Review: Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers

Notable Book Score:  1/100

I posted last week that I was going to try to read/listen to each  of  the New York Times 2012 Notable Book of Year. There are a 100 of them and this is my first review.

Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers.  Experienced via Audiobook via audible.com.

If you are looking for a work of fiction that does a good job describing the realities of our current economic system as it relates to actual human happiness or the lack of it, Dave Egger’s Hologram for the King does a good job.   

The book is sorta about jobs–and it is the hope of a job, well a commission anyway, that sends business consultant Alan Clay to Saudi Arabia to try and sell a Hologram communication system to King Abdullah and the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), a 86 billion dollar project, which basically involves building a 2 million person city by 2025.

Alan, himself, is a mess and kinda of a jackass.  He is alienated from his father who hasn’t forgiven Alan for his past work at  SchwinnBicycles where he closed down American factories and sent the jobs to the third world.  The move, in the book anyways, didn’t pay off for Schwinn.  His ex-wife is crazy and his daughter is about to drop out of college because he can’t pay the hefty tuition fees. He also owes friends a bunch of money that he can’t repay.   Going to KAEC and trying to sell the Hologram thingee is a last chance shot for Alan.

I recently read another book about Saudi Arabia,  The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade by Andrew Feinstein.  That book, which heavily features the kingdom and its involvement with some of the shadiest and saddest arm deals.   Of course, England, the United States, and Germany, are all involved too. It feels that Hologram bumps up against Shadow World; a global economy that only creates human misery, whether it is through terrible working conditions for migrant laborers, the proliferation of small and large arms to the highest paying dictator, or the gross opulence of places like Dubai and the yet to be realized KAEC.

Is this the world that we want?

Anyways, as it looks like the hologram deal is fading, Alan develops friendships and relationships with some of the everyday people who live in Saudi.  It is through these relationships–even though Alan seems to screw most of them up–where Alan experiences something stronger, more beautiful, and more powerful, than the bullshit world of “economic cities” and holograms.

It’s not just clear what side Alan will land on.



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