If you feel deeply dissatisfied with the ending of this work, your instincts are spot on.
For one thing, we've spent over thirty chapters waiting for King Abdullah…and he's in the book for a page. That's it.
And for all the fretting and pep-talking that Alan does, he never ever gets a chance to prove himself.
And that's not even the worst of it. When Alan finds out that a Chinese firm has grabbed the coveted contract, we realize that there have been little hints all along that Alan's plans would go belly up. Zahra Hakem mentions the Chinese buying up King Abdullah's oil and Hanne wonders out loud who Reliant's competition might be. (Not to mention that the Chinese have been the villain of almost every story about the loss of American jobs throughout the book.)
At this point, you've got to be concerned about Alan's mental health. So much was riding on this contract, including his daughter's future. He's told us that he can't lose the bid—he just can't. So what happens next for Alan? Does he make a drastic change in his outlook on life? Does he change his behavior? Does he throw himself into a ravine?
Nope. Nothing quite so dramatic. The last time we see Alan, he's standing abjectly before the arch-villain Karim, his salesman's brain is already whirring a mile a minute: he's ready to snatch any tidbits he can from Abdullah's table.
He does this partly because he doesn't really have a choice. By his own admission, he can't go back home empty-handed. But we also suspect that Alan's lobbying to remain in KAEC (to sell something) is nothing more than muscle memory. His heart's not in it, but his Fuller Brush Man reflexes can't help themselves.