The Victory of FUN®?

Xinru YinMay 22, 2018The Speed of NowMedia

The End of FUN by Sean McGinty is a step towards freedom. The book announces that it is time we end the fake “fun” and start to enjoy ourselves.

The novel is set entirely in the United States and is based around FUN® (Fully Ubiquitous Neuralnet), a game played with brain chips and eye lenses, in which players complete missions to earn virtual money. The main character, Aaron, falls into this trend, and enjoys playing games on FUN® until he loses all of his winnings. This is when he finds out about a mysterious treasure. The only clues leading to the treasure are riddles left behind by his grandfather. While solving these riddles, Aaron realizes FUN® is not fun anymore and files for an “Application for Termination” from the game.

The novel is full of fantastic elements, like a treasure hunt and brain chips and eye lenses equipped for a game. These details all weave together to create an impossible reality, in spite of the fact that the characters are real-life people like you and me. Pairing futuristic environments with real-life characters allows the author to shock readers in a way that is similar to pushing their heads into a pool of cold water while their feet are standing firmly on the ground. I was bewildered at the realistic elements mixed into scenes set in the future at first, but soon I began to marvel at how the author uses realism and fantasy at the same time to get his message across.

The novel seems to be about the future, but in my eyes it depicts an aspect of our current reality. Aaron’s act of joining FUN® is a reflection of young people’s tendency to escape real-life struggles nowadays and the pressure to live according to society’s standards. Aaron chooses to separate from FUN® when he understands how the real world operates. He jumps out of a trap laid for people by big corporations and technology.

We now live in a fast-forward society with less time than ever for us to contemplate each day. Commercials and commodities push themselves into our lives, and often we are too weak to stand up to the strongest gales of huge commercial industries. Aaron isn’t able to resist the temptation of virtual reality, as his life with it is far more manageable than his life without it. As he gradually realizes that FUN® cannot bring him true happiness, he starts exploring how to co-exist with the technology “invasion.”

Through a surprising turn of events, Aaron experiences “holy wonder,” a feeling that everything is worth being cherished. It serves as an enlightenment, changing his views of everything else. He used to complete tasks to adapt to life, but now he learns to appreciate life. When judged by societal standards, Aaron seems to have nothing—his mind is filled with simple yet beautiful things, and he soon realizes that beauty, the real treat of life, is forgotten by the rushing crowd hurrying to complete missions like zombies. I believe that the author includes this idea to address modern society’s problems and point to a possible way out, so we can all slow down and enjoy ourselves.

Throughout the book, McGinty also uses symbolism to portray these ideas. For example, in two very important and parallel scenes, the author uses a yellow bird as a metaphor for freedom. At the beginning of the book, Aaron’s grandfather gives him a gun and teaches him how to shoot birds. Aaron shoots a yellow bird and injures its wings. At the end of the book, he notices a yellow bird that has survived a mass extinction. Aaron and the bird have an immediate connection. The bird longs for the sky because it can fly without limits. Aaron longs for freedom because he can behave without limits. They both have “wings,” the desire for freedom. At first, Aaron injures his wings by trying to fit into the world of FUN® and gets into trouble. In the end, his wings are healed, marking the end of FUN®.

The overall flow of the novel is dramatic in a peaceful way, like a calm river with currents undulating deep down. Although the plot is full of twists and turns, as it unfolds, the author presents a chain of dramatic events somberly without external comments, allowing readers to think for themselves. This exemplifies the “show not tell” rule.

I would rate this novel 4.5 out of 5. Intended for high school students and adults, it is a thought-provoking book about freedom in the contemporary world of technology, and will inspire readers to reflect on their own goals and ways of life.

What is FUN® and what is real fun? FUN® represents things that need to be done in real life, yet sometimes we don’t even realize we are completing those missions. We don’t know why we are completing missions. Real fun begins when life is shaped by free minds. This book reminds me to liberate my mind and cultivate my independence. As the world rushes past me faster than the speed of light, I hope to keep a firm hold on my capability of free thought and live a life unwearied by the speed of now. I strongly recommend this book to all true life seekers.

Xinru Yin is a junior at the High School Attached to Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. She enjoys the company of nature as well as well-woven thoughts of the most prominent humans.