Dave Eggers

A Hologram for the King

  • This summary of A Hologram for the King includes a complete plot overview – spoilers included!
  • We’re considering expanding this synopsis into a full-length study guide to deepen your comprehension of the book and why it's important.
  • Want to see an expanded study guide sooner? Click the Upvote button below.

A Hologram for the King Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature  detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers.

A Hologram for the King is a novel by Dave Eggers, published in 2012. With hints of parable, Eggers explores a modern-day quandary in both national and personal identity explored through mid-life crisis and cultural clashes.

The story opens with the simple declaration that a man named Alan Clay is in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He has flown for two days to get there. His meeting with a woman in Nairobi is described; Alan is very attracted to her and wishes he could get to know her better, but when his flight is called he simply gets up and walks away from her. Alan has recently been through a terrible divorce and as a result is deeply in debt and financially ruined, and he worries he will not be able to continue paying his daughter’s college tuition. He is also coming off of a professional disaster at his last job, which leaves Alan feeling little confidence as he arrives in Saudi Arabia on behalf of his new employer, Reliant Systems, to pitch a holographic projection system to the Saudi King. Alan reveals he has only been invited to pitch the idea because of a chance meeting with the king’s nephew.

Alan oversleeps, and when he wakes up discovers he has missed the shuttle bus heading to the location of the presentation. He races to hire a private driver, but when he finally arrives at the location he learns that the king is not there, and neither is his liaison, Karim Al-Ahmad, and his sales team have been placed in a tent outside the building and lack an Internet connection.

Alan is frustrated with his lack of access and begins to fear he’s going to fail. He gains access to the building and finds a Danish woman named Hanne and begs her for help in gaining an audience with the king. She cannot help him, but offers him a bottle of alcohol (difficult to get in Jeddah) and is friendly and sympathetic, which Alan appreciates. He goes back to his hotel and gets drunk, then decides to do something about a mysterious lump on his neck. He takes a needle and stabs into it and it bleeds copiously, then he passes out.

When he wakes up, he is covered in blood and goes to the hospital, where a doctor named Zahra cares for him. Alan feels a connection with Zahra, who takes a biopsy of the lump.
Back at his hotel, Alan writes letters to his daughter he never sends and has what he thinks is a heart attack. He calls his driver and Zahra. When his driver, Yousef, arrives, it is clear to him that Alan and Zahra have a connection, and he is angry because this endangers Zahra. Zahra tells Alan he has experienced an anxiety attack.

Alan sneaks back into the building and finally tracks down Karim. Alan expresses his frustration with the situation. Karim expresses sympathy and assures Alan he will help him, but does not confirm a date for the presentation.

Zahra contacts Alan to tell him that the biopsy came back positive for cancer and the growth must be removed. Alan is disturbed. He is invited by Yousef to go to his father’s house in the mountains and agrees. When he accompanies Yousef on a wolf hunt and nearly kills a villager, however, Yousef must get Alan out of there quickly.

When he returns to his hotel, he learns that Karim has followed through and helped him by restoring the air-conditioning and Internet to their tent, and by scheduling his presentation to the king that day. Alan travels back to the presentation site and his team does a very good job, but the King simply claps and leaves the room, and Alan never gets the chance to deliver his practiced sales pitch.

Alan goes back to the hospital to have his lump removed. A doctor he doesn’t know begins the procedure, which makes Alan unhappy, but in the middle of the procedure Zahra comes in and takes over. Alan is very happy to see her. The lump is removed and the cancer is found to be benign.

After the surgery, Alan stays in touch with Zahra, and they meet. Alan is surprised to discover that Zahra has a similar family situation to his own—she is divorced and has two children, and worries constantly that the mistakes she has made will negatively affect them. Zahra invites Alan to come visit her beach house, and Alan accepts. Alone there, they kiss and make love.

Alan learns that his presentation has not resulted in a sale. Alan decides he cannot possibly go back to the United States a failure a second time; having met Zahra, he elects to remain in Saudi Arabia. He launches a real estate business and begins building a new life with Zahra.