Trust Dave Eggers to write a social commentary. A Hologram for the King deals with facades as opposed to realities of society. The idea of selling a vision—this is how things could be—is all over the book, and since the main character is a middle-aged man going through a crisis, such a vision sounds compelling. At first glance, this sounds like a darn good book.
But the story falls short. It didn’t make sense to me—or the details didn’t, at least. What kind of self-respecting company would send a low ranking staff to present to a king? It doesn’t matter if that salesman has a bit of a connection to the king’s relative—the proper thing is to have a high ranking officer accompany that connection. Does that company have no respect for a king? If the premise of the story was the presentation of a hologram for the king, it should at least have been believable. Yes, the book is all about selling a vision, but that doesn’t mean the details need to be implausible.
As for the characters, I found it hard to care for any one of them, especially not the main character, Alan. He was not likeable, and I could not understand how he could have possibly been appealing to anyone when he was in that state. The only character who wasn’t terrible was Yousef—he was an odd kid, clearly amused at the man in the middle of a crisis.
I do like how the story ended. I thought Dave Eggers made the conclusion realistic at least. Again, the social commentary is what makes the book, so the ending needed to match the points being made in the book. So, strong messaging and ending, but meh for everything else. I would have preferred to read this as an essay or short story instead.