Tag Archives: Technology

Allegiant: Book to Movie Review (by Ritu B. ‘24)

“I can’t believe that they have desecrated something so sacred!” I burst out as soon as the Allegiant movie credits flashed onto the screen. My family can attest to that.

Let me back up.

In fourth grade, I finished the sumptuous feast that is the Divergent series, books that were so important to me in my childhood. Having been pleased years ago by the first movie adaption of the series, I had high, high hopes coming into the Allegiant movie…that you can already guess were not fulfilled.

[Warning: Reading ahead will reveal spoilers for the Divergent series]

If you’re familiar with the book and you’ve seen the movie, then you already know my largest grievance. Come on, say it with me out loud, and let’s relieve our agony together: orange!!

In the book, the world outside of Chicago is described as gloomy and dark, but in the movie, we get Kraft’s mac-and-cheese-flavored radioactivity!

I have no problem whatsoever with producers taking creative rights with the storyline—if the movie were the same as the book, no one would want to watch it, right?


Little plot meanderings and trimmings here and there will make a movie more enjoyable to sit through, but when it’s obvious that a three hour film won’t do justice to such a heavy book’s plot, then the movie project must be split into two. (Think Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.) Allegiant undoubtedly fell under this category, and I’m devastated that instead of making two films, the movie cut out half of the book’s plot, half of the characters, and hacked away at Veronica Roth’s masterpiece until it arrived at a sloppy post-apocalyptic world.

Uriah who? Cara who? So many members of the crew that accompanied Tris and Tobias out of Chicago weren’t present at all. Instead, the movie blew 90% of its precious duration on slow camera pans to show off “breath-taking”—but really, irrelevant—technology.

However, I did appreciate a few parts—that is, when I wasn’t being blinded by the orange. In spite of the twisted storyline in the movie, the script stayed true to the main characters’ identities. Tobias was Theo James (sorry but I can’t find any flaws with that.) Evelyn, his dictator mother, maintained her redemptive arc in the end, giving up power to be with her son. Peter, the “bad guy” who hangs out with the “good guys,” was sharp, sarcastic, and self-absorbed. My favorite line of the movie was “[t]hat’s why you pick a guy like me for a job like this,” intended for his boss to hear, which he delivers after shooting Evelyn in the knee when she turns back on their dark plan.

But, ok, I’ve reached my last complaint: Tris didn’t die in her quest to restore goodness in the world. This movie doesn’t deserve the name Allegiant if the ending doesn’t plunge its claws into your chest, wrench your heart out, and render you a sobbing shell of a human being for the next week.

Have you watched Allegiant? Share your thoughts in the comments! — Ritu B. ’24

For those who enjoyed this book, Ritu has recommended The Lunar Chronicles series for you to check out!

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore (review by Connie M. ’17)

The Last Days of NightThe Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I picked up The Last Days of Night from the “free book” rack, I was doubtful of whether Graham Moore’s second novel would live up to the whirlwind Gilded Age adventure the back cover promised. However, the fact that this novel is based on, of all things, a patent lawsuit, impressed me all the more when I found myself completely absorbed in the incredibly intelligent and fast-paced plot. Moore skillfully paints his characters with depth and unique personalities, many of whom are well-known historical figures (Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, J.P. Morgan, etc.). I loved getting to know the eccentricities of these almost legendary people, and Moore periodically provides wonderfully profound insights into the way their minds operate. My only reservation is that Moore can sometimes overdo the most unique parts of his writing. For example, I found the quotes that he placed before each of the very short chapters more distracting than helpful, and his insights can occasionally be presented more subtly. Overall, The Last Days of Night was refreshing and exciting and would be a great read in particular for fans of historical fiction, law, or the history of inventions. – Connie M. ’17

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Zero to One by Peter Thiel (review by Anika B. ’18)

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the FutureZero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Zero to One, Peter Theil, the founder of Paypal, takes the reader through the steps of building a successful startup. A notable aspect of revolutionary companies is that they go from 0 to 1, as opposed to going from 1 to n. In other words, Microsoft went from 0 to 1 by creating new technology. However, the next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. I read this book on the plane, and only opened it because I couldn’t use my phone during takeoff. I had planned on watching a bunch of movies, but the book was so amazing that I did not put it down until I finished it. The book was very easy to read, and the text was accompanied by comprehensive visuals. The brilliant metaphors further helped the reader internalize the content. However, the best part of the book was the content itself. The book preaches the opposite of what is taught in the typical economic class, allowing the reader to consider the world from a different point of view. I recommend this book to everyone, and I believe that all Harker students should read it. – Anika B. ’18

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Lock In by John Scalzi (review by Catherine H. ’17)

Lock In (Lock In, #1)Lock In by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

John Scalzi’s Lock In introduces the reader to a world in the near future where millions of people have been affected by a virus that immobilizes the body but leaves the brain fully functional, while others have had their brains altered but still have fully functional bodies. Those who are immobilized are “locked in” and can use “threeps,” or robotic bodies, to interact with others in the physical world; those who have had their brain chemistry changed but have had no other physical effects are called Integrators and can allow those who have been “locked in” to borrow their bodies for a time. Hadens, those who have lost the ability to use their bodies due to this virus, find themselves in a new community that can exist outside of the physical realm, because they are not attached to their bodies. Scalzi does some interesting world-building and purposefully leaves the protagonist, Chris Shane, ambiguous. For example, Chris’s gender and race are hardly mentioned, which leaves the reader to interpret how Chris interacts with the world as an FBI agent looking to solve a murder that may have involved Hadens. I appreciated Scalzi’s subtle inclusion of diversity in the novel, and I look forward to reading more from him.

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In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders (review by Shannon H. ’16)

In Persuasion NationIn Persuasion Nation by George Saunders
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was almost addicted, inhaling this collection of dark short stories at an alarmingly fast pace. George Saunders creates a world in which advertising and persuasion overcome rational thought – his stories read like television commercials, slowly convincing the reader that the grotesque and brutal scenes are real. One short story begins with a polar bear lamenting his doomed existence to repeat the same patterns each day (he lives in a advertising scene). Each day he steals Cheetos from an igloo and is subsequently caught; afterwards, the owner of the igloo swings an ax to the polar bear’s head, and the day ends. Unsurprisingly, the polar bear engages in existential discussion and falls down the wormhole of philosophy. What a brilliant mix of realism and complete absurdism, and of course, it’s great satire. Would highly recommend to anyone looking for some grim reality mixed with a dosage of humor and science fiction.

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The Circle by Dave Eggers (review by Andrew R. ’17)

The CircleThe Circle by Dave Eggers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Privacy in social media and on the Internet is a hot topic these days—the perfect target for some biting satire and not-so-futuristic science fiction. That’s what Dave Eggers is going for in The Circle, at least. He achieves those ends without offering much in the way of plot complexity or meaningful commentary. The storyline follows Mae Holland as she works her way up the corporate ladder of the Circle—a Silicon Valley super-corporation that seems to hold a monopoly over all the social media, scientific research, and Internet services. The section of the narrative where Mae relinquishes all her privacy to improve her standing in the company is chilling, but its impact is lessened by Eggers’s lack of subtlety in exposing the corporation’s tyranny: when the Circle’s executives make SECRETS ARE LIES, SHARING IS CARING, PRIVACY IS THEFT the new company motto, for instance, it’s hard to think of the campus as anything less than a malicious, 1984-like surveillance state. The Circle would have made a potent commentary on one of today’s most-discussed issues if it had spent more time on an intricate plot and less on too-obvious catchphrases and images of corruption. – Andrew R. ’17

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (review by Andrew R.’17)

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ready Player One has the amusing (if unlikely) premise of a massive ’80s cultural revival in the year 2044 following the death of billionaire video game designer James Halliday. In a famine-stricken vision of future America, Halliday’s will is the last hope for many of the country’s hopeful gamers: it bestows the designer’s entire fortune upon the first person to complete a series of ’80s-themed riddles set in the OASIS, a sprawling virtual-reality videogame that redefines MMORPGs. For a future-world teenager, intrepid fortune-hunter Wade Watts spends a surprising amount of time obsessing over minutiae of ’80s culture that seem more likely to appeal to the author himself. (Case in point: the president of the OASIS is Cline’s fellow science-fiction novelist Cory Doctorow.) My only qualm with this book is that, while the OASIS is constantly glorified, it’s clear that the collapse of the real world is a direct result of the citizenry’s lack of regard for anything outside their alternate-reality visors. One character hints at this, but, of course, he immediately recants his views and never brings them up again. Still, Ready Player One is a fun diversion from the real world—for the author as well as the reader. – Andrew R. ’17

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Homeland (Little Brother #2) by Cory Doctorow (review by Catherine H. ’17)

Homeland (Little Brother, #2)Homeland by Cory Doctorow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since Marcus started up the Xnet and exposed the government in Little Brother, everything has gone downhill. After the economy the crashes and leaves him with nothing, his former rival Masha shows up with a mysterious USB drive containing a load of dark secrets. She warns Marcus to leak the info on the drive if she ever goes missing, which she promptly does. However, in his new job as a webmaster for an independent candidate, Marcus can’t afford to let anyone know that he’s the leaker. Cory Doctorow’s brilliant book, a sort of wake-up call that shows the dark side of technology, is a thrilling read. I would recommend this series to most if not all avid readers, regardless of age or genre preference.

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The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer (review by Monica K. 14)

The Lord of Opium (Matteo Alacran #2)The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The surprise sequel of The House of the Scorpion, The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer follows Matt’s dismantling of his predecessor’s drug empire. In particular, it explores the plight of the microchipped eejits, ethics of cloning and microchipping, and the polluted, future world. While the novel had potential (and is still well-written and recommended to fans of the first book), it could have been truly great with a serious round of editing. My main problems with it were that the pacing was off and main characters shifted personalities from the first novel or acted out of character to move the plot along. I also missed the world building and suspense of the first book. In the end the Lord of Opium is pretty good but not a must-read – however, I really, really recommend The House of the Scorpion. – Monica K. ‘14

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Spillover by David Quammen (review by Akshay B. ’16)

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human PandemicSpillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Award-winning travel writer David Quammen brings you along on his latest fantastic journey across the world, documenting the origin and emergence of dangerous zoonoses, viral infections that come to humans from other species. Quammen is a brilliant narrator, combining humor with intellectual information to trace the spread of viruses like Ebola, AIDS and H1N1 as well as lesser known but no less frightening varieties. Unfortunately, he can only go so far, and readers who are not ardent fans of biology may find the narrative, at times, boring. However, readers will be pulled into the globe-crossing journey as Quammen gives a first-person perspective of his travels and hands-on experience with researchers. Fans of biology and people who like reading about worldly issues will find Spillover a fantastic read. – Akshay B. ‘16

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