It is 2010, and Alan Clay is waiting. Not for Godot, but for King Abdullah, in the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), which is a developing Red Sea port in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He is a 54-year-old failed American businessman in serious debt, evading his creditors and anguishing over how he will pay for his daughter's next year in college. He also has an angry ex-wife and a worrying lump on his neck. This is his last hurrah, a chance to turn his life from sad and broke to flush and secure, if h It is 2010, and Alan Clay is waiting. Not for Godot, but for King Abdullah, in the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), which is a developing Red Sea port in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He is a 54-year-old failed American businessman in serious debt, evading his creditors and anguishing over how he will pay for his daughter's next year in college. He also has an angry ex-wife and a worrying lump on his neck. This is his last hurrah, a chance to turn his life from sad and broke to flush and secure, if he and his young team from Reliant can pitch this hologram presentation to the King and win an IT contract.
Alan is a bit of a sad sack, arriving at his failures largely due to the outsourcing of American business manufacturing. He was once a confident, prosperous sales executive with Schwinn, until he made some bad decisions, such as trying to convert a Soviet-era factory in Budapest to a capitalistic model. Sometime after that catastrophe, he followed the trend of globalization, and was instrumental in shipping Schwinn's labor to China. That was the end of Schwinn's American prosperity.
"How did your suppliers become your competitors? That was a rhetorical question...Teach a man to fish. Now the Chinese know how to fish, and ninety-nine percent of all bicycles are being made there in one province."
Moreover, his father, now retired, had been a committed union man with Stride Rite, and treated Alan with contempt for his past misdeeds and his new job with Reliant.
"They're making actual things over there, and we're making websites and holograms...while sitting in chairs made in China, working on computers made in China, driving over bridges made in China. Does this sound sustainable to you, Alan?"
As Alan recalls various high points and assaults on his career and personal life-his tense years wedded to the high-strung Ruby; a sentimental trip to Cape Canaveral with his daughter, Kit, to watch the last shuttle; the affluent years with Schwin-he continues to wait, either in his lonely hotel with no alcohol, or set up with his team of three in a tent with anemic wi-fi and no air conditioning, in 110-degree heat.
Fortunately, Alan has forged a connection with a local, a young, enigmatic, chubby driver named Yousef, who is constantly looking under the hood of his car/taxi for explosives that may have been set by the husband of an ex-fiancé. Yousef is usually the comical straight man to the blundering Alan. As Alan shares his dreams and visions of selling his ideas to the King, Yousef tamps it down with some biting realities. Apparently, the King hasn't even been back to Jeddah in about 18 months.
Yousef gives Alan a tour of this unrepentant desert region, a vast place tremendous with possibilities, but appears to be in a stage of arrested development. A billboard advertises the development, and there's a road that cuts through nothing, then a pair of stone arches, and a dome hovering over all of it. He imagines the city rising from its ashes. Presently, it looks like anywhere and nowhere-it could be Los Angeles, or Orlando, as there is nothing to give it distinction, except for its looming neutrality and the few towering or squat, square buildings.
Alan attempts to make contact with the liaison, Karim al-Ahmad, at the building they call the "Black Box, " and is given the royal runaround. Back to the stifling tent, he reminisces and deliberates some more. Is the lump on his neck malignant? Are they going to be served food? Is the King going to come soon? Days turn into weeks, and Alan has some interactive adventures. He meets a Danish beauty with an office in the Black Box and a secret stash of moonshine. He makes an appointment to have his lump evaluated and meets a serenely beautiful doctor. He even has an opportunity to prove himself an able marksman.
Eggars has pared down his prose since the exuberant narrative style in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Here it is streamlined-lean, economic, slyly impassive. I enjoyed what was unsaid as much as what was said-the spaces between sentences, the pregnant pauses to ponder, the measured rhythm, the quivering tension, the elegy of a man feeling his impending absence more than his indefinite presence.
There's a risk of the story being an agit-prop against the creeping ambush of globalization, a pithy cry about America's decline. Certainly that point is made, but not forcefully. Readers are already aware of the economic struggles, the backlash of end-stage capitalism and the pros and con arguments of outsourcing. Eggars is more interested in shaping a character we will identify and empathize with, and laugh at occasionally.
Clay is a maladjusted baby boomer from the age of entitlement, losing his footing in the new privileges and prohibitions of global finance. His wounds, both physical and emotional, are palpable. Alan Clay is a suffering everyman, in the throes of unsustainability. There are wisps of Willy Loman, Herzog, and other memorable literary figures, aging tragic-comic men who suffered from obsolescence.
It reads partly like a fabled allegory, but achingly real and plausible. Can the imminent foreclosure of a man's life be reversed? Will the King show up? I was touched, and considerably moved, by the story, characters, and themes. Don't expect a neatly wrapped up resolve. The droll and beguiling Eggars will hook you on page one, and won't let go, even when you reach the end.where to find device name on laptop where to design clothes online why teaching is important to me who's are whose what teaching looks like how much developer to bleach how many startup companies are there in bangalore what solutions are there for climate change which london airport and terminal tool where to teach driving near me when device a has a cable how product and engineering work together who design the statue of liberty why london is a good place to live which technology precedes horsemanship how much project coordinators make how many system updates on galaxy s10 how many hours does a district manager work where is technology made how business owners pay themselves who devised the subtreasury plan who system framework how device driver whose solution is used for whitewashing where is solution in geography how much management consultants make how much solution in little green machine when boot up how many product managers are there how much design house why device is not playing for nip whu business school ranking why device manager can't open which teaching strategies can be used by teachers how far london to ireland when system has no solution how to buy a business location how startup theranos has struggled how much science diet to feed dog why product marketing where is derby from london where to find advanced roadmap in jira where design is found whom company how product teams work