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.
Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion is a collection of essays, each of which delves into a specific aspect of the culture in which Jia Tolentino grew up. For the most part, I got the references. I didn’t watch reality tv shows growing up, but my friends made me watch a few episodes of Jersey Shore back in 2019—found it weird, but it was good for context. Even then, the essays fell short for me. Perhaps I wasn’t too into the topics of choice; I only enjoyed reading two of them: “Ecstasy” and “The Cult of the Difficult Woman.” Everything else simply reminded me of how disadvantageous it is to be a woman. No thanks.
The writing, on the other hand, is a different story. It was impeccable. Despite my aversion to the essay topics, I continued reading because I liked Jia Tolentino’s writing. Her points were clear written and based on fact, and, equally important, her tone was not shrill. So the bright side of having read Trick Mirror was that I was introduced to Jia Tolentino’s writing. If I see her name on some article in the future, I’ll most likely read it.
It’s been years since I last chose to read instead of to sleep. I was captivated, consumed by this new world. Mistborn isn’t simply a world of magic and wonder; no, it’s full of logic and physics and politics and religion. I wanted to know how this world worked, and I could not stop thinking about how everything in the Mistborn world simply made sense. I read the whole trilogy in a span of two weeks, which is very, very fast for me. It could have been only one week, too, but I had to resume work after the new year and could no longer spend the whole day reading.
World building aside, a major selling point for me was that each book in the trilogy was complete on its own. There was just enough of a cliffhanger at the end of each book, enticing readers such as myself to read the next one, without sacrificing the conclusion and wholeness of the current book. This is a big deal. Some trilogies have books that seemed to be written simply as a lead into the final book. (I’m talking about you, Catching Fire, even if I did inhale The Hunger Games trilogy.) Brandon Sanderson made sure each book had its own complete plotline, all of which kept me hooked.
I also loved the characters. I fell in love with Elend Venture right away, and I loved his character development. I also liked how every main character got their fair share of screen (or page) time, and I was particularly interested in reading Marsh’s plotline. I don’t think there was any character in Mistborn that I didn’t quite like, yet all of them were so different that it was interesting to read how they interacted. This includes the humor thrown around in the trilogy. Even when the world was falling apart and all hope seemed lost, the characters found some humor in their situations. I thought this was a nice reprieve from impending doom that the characters were definitely going to face.
Final thoughts: I am so glad I read this series. If I’d read this a few years ago, I might not have appreciated it as much I do now. I feel that high fantasy is a genre I’d work towards reading, so I would not recommend this to someone who has only started dabbling with fantasy. (Case in point: I read Eragon in high school and could not appreciate it then. Only after reading several Neil Gaiman and VE Schwab books did I start appreciating other worlds outside of Harry Potter. My friends recommended Mistborn to me after I’d told them I was reading The Name of the Wind.) What next? A newfound friend recommended the Wax and Wane series and another recommended The Stormlight Archive. I could go deeper into this world or search out new ones by the same writer. Til next time.