Van has finished reading…A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

7 Aug

This is a book you could quite easily rip through without even noticing. That’s not a detrimental statement. It’s one of those interesting stories where nothing much of anything particularly happens – which of course means that none of the big things you’d expect to drive the story happen. In fact all the action is peripheral to the protagonist, Alan.
It almost sounds like a recipe for disaster when seen like that but it’s not. It’s clearly intentional. Whilst heading a team attempting to sell an IT system that allows holographic interfacing to the King of Saudi Arabia, Alan’s life is as close to a hologram as a living person could be. He interacts with the people around him but, even as part of the team he’s with, as Facilitator for that team, his role is a little less than necessary. All Alan’s action is in the past. Alan used to be somebody. And here’s the lesson of the piece: Corporate America sold itself off cheap. When they were the major player in the world everyone came to them chasing the money. But the world’s a different place now. Globalised, outsourced, virtual. Does it even exist as a tangible thing anymore? Every day we’re interacting with people who aren’t really there. The rest of the world is cheaper and it’s America doing the chasing.
The prose is really quite sparse which lends itself to Alan’s situation perfectly, and the symbolism feels astute and – importantly – not overdone.

The rub of it, for me is that there were a couple of points where I felt lifted out of the story. Both of these instances were Alan’s interaction with women. It wasn’t Alan’s responses to them that stalled me but their responses to him. I found myself thinking, hmmm, really? At those points it felt more to me like Eggers needed those responses more than the story did.
Don’t let that be enough to put you off though. It’s worth the time.


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