Dave Eggers - A Hologram for the King (4 stars)

A witty and erudite social satire about America's place in the modern world

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Dave Eggers - A Hologram for the King

You can practically touch the satire oozing from the pages of A Hologram for the King. This parable of America being diluted and threatened in the face of a brutal global economy has Dave Eggers at his default setting of ambitious, amusing and perceptive. The man behind literary publications McSweeney’s and The Believer as well as the most audaciously titled debut of our times (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, for pity’s sake) pulls off another stirring feat with this tale of one man and his endless disappointments.

Alan Clay is a fiftysomething consultant for Reliant, a major IT supplier whose big payday is looming if they can succeed in selling a holographic teleconferencing system to King Abdullah. Based in the Saudi desert, Alan and his team endure long fruitless days attempting to set up their pitch and he regresses into worrying about his past, knocking back the moonshine and impotently fooling around. But the near-bankrupt Clay also has more familial concerns nagging away with a failed marriage behind him and a daughter who is relying on her father financially to get her through college.

As well as being a literary lampoon on the US and its increasingly shaky place in the world (when blast-proof glass is being manufactured for the second World Trade Centre, China wins the contract), this is an almost Kafkaesque portrait of alienation and frustration in the face of misinformation, missed appointments and the inability to puncture barriers (both physical and psychological). A Hologram for the King is as witty and erudite as you’d expect from Eggers without him resorting to needless flamboyancy.

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