“Movie or book”

” A Hologram For The King,” written by Dave Eggers, was published in 2012.  A recent DVD release, it stars Tom Hanks as Alan Clay, a salesman for Reliant, an IT company.

Having seen and enjoyed the movie, I was left with some questions about the characters and the plot.  So, I read the book.

Alan Clay arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 2010.  He is a divorced father of a college-aged daughter.  He is experiencing some serious person financial problems. The one that troubles him the most is his inability to pay for his daughter’s next semester at school.  Hopefully, this sales’ trip to Jeddah will make him solvent again.

His company has developed a holographic teleconferencing system.  He and his team of three young IT people will set up a demonstration at the King Abdullah Economic City and sell this innovation to the king.  Alan is confident that he will make the sale.

Suffering from jet lag, Alan oversleeps and misses the team van to the demonstration site.  After several tries, the hotel final engages a driver for him.  Yousef, a young Saudi, will become not only Alan’s driver but a friend.  Yousef will help Alan gain some insight into this foreign culture.

The trip to the KAEC takes more than an hour.  Alan and Yousef travel through miles of desert finally arriving at the KAEC, which consists of two buildings, a huge tent, and several half constructed buildings and lots and lots of sand.



What follows are days of waiting for the king to appear.  With so much time on his hands, Alan investigates the landscape, meets the king’s local staff , has a run-in with foreign workers, and is treated by a female Saudi doctor.

Whenever a book is made into a movie, there is always discussion about which was better:  the book or the movie?  In this case, the movie and the book are different in only minor ways.  The book does give the reader more information about Alan’s failed marriage and failed business dealings.  The movie gives you just enough detail to fill in the blanks about Alan’s need to make this business deal work.

Whether you read the book or see the movie, “A Hologram For The King” is very enjoyable.  Eggers’ novel paints an interesting picture of a developing Saudi Arabia and how an American IT guy tries to do business in this kingdom.  It has moments of humor, sadness, desperation, and self-discovery.  A good book and a good movie.


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