We’ve seen this kind of story dozens of times. The young man who dares to build his own spaceship/robot/superhero costume and make it with the cute girl next door, only to realize that he’s stumbled onto a sinister new world with his new creation/friend/powers. He must defeat the new threat with said enhancements and rescue his would-be girlfriend before the end of the story, where there’ll be some kind of mushy happy ending.
Now that I’ve summed it up, here’s The Cup by Richard A. Goforth, Sr.
The Story: I’m Bored, Let’s Build A Ship And Go To The Moon (Stop Laughing, I’m Being Serious)
Jerry Robinson, our protagonist and narrator, gives a pretty good description of the plot about halfway through the novel:
My friend Wendy and I built a spacecraft. We used an engine invented by Wendy’s grandfather. When we went on our first test flight, we traveled several times farther than we wanted. I had grossly underestimated the strength of the power plant. When we tried to return to our planet, we only made matters worse. I had no idea how much power the Cup really had (Goforth, Sr. 62).
Seriously, that’s how this story starts. And by “starts,” I mean, it takes its time setting up Jerry and Wendy, throwing them into a very sudden and passionate romance, building and testing the spaceship that they built in Jerry‘s backyard (that no one else knows about), and then going out into space for a series of adventures.
Drama rears its head (kinda) in the form of the Selstans and Nitromalians, who are on the brink of war when Jerry and Wendy show up in their part of the galaxy. With the help of alien leader Leonex, the two humans get entangled with the politics and feuds of the extraterrestrials and through many turns of events, they sort things out and return home. It’s not so much exciting as meandering.
The Cast: Okay, We Get It, They’re In Love!
Jerry is our all-too-capable narrator and hero, a young man who just up and creates a gyroscopic drive that can go faster than the speed of light and a working spaceship for said experimental drive. He also gets involved with his next-door neighbor and obvious love interest Wendy. And in case it’s not obvious in their first scene together, don’t worry, the author makes sure that they spend every moment alone together passionately declaring their love for each other and “hugging tightly.”
The other characters are the various aliens they meet, who have names like Leonex, Mellinor, and Exlonder. I’m sorry, but I really can’t take these names too seriously. It doesn’t help that, beyond their common trouble with English idioms and very clipped speech habits, they don’t have much personality beyond what the plot demands.
The Style: Oh Boy. We’re In Space. Wheee.
To understand the style of this tale, just try to read the author’s plot summary out loud. Notice how it doesn’t flow right off the tongue or sound natural. Even the name of the ship–“The Cup”–doesn’t sound right. And don’t get me started on how many times Mr. Goforth uses comparisons along the lines of “It was like X but was more like Y…” or “It looked like X but not really…” There isn’t so much description as there is an endless string of comparisons broken up by dialogue and the occasional bit of action.
And when I say “the occasional bit of action,” I mean it. The majority of this story is the narrator explaining things to Wendy or other characters, so there’s a lot of standing around and talking. Now, there are in fact stories that can make standing around and talking into something entertaining. Shakespeare did it all the time. So did Clerks and the first five seasons of Red Vs. Blue. But this story isn’t anything like those works.
Final Verdict: Maybe It Would’ve Worked As A Short Story?
The video below–a clip from the Nostalgia Critic’s review of Junior–is the most accurate way to describe how I feel about this story.
The Cup is a story about two people having an unexciting adventure and an irritating romance. For a story that involves war between different alien races, there’s sure a whole lot of nothing to be soaked up.
Bibliography: Goforth, Sr., Richard A. The Cup. Pittsburgh: Dorrance Publishing, 2007.
“Boring.” The Nostalgia Critic (Junior review). ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com. Written by Doug and Rob Walker. January 12, 2010. http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/thatguywiththeglasses/nostalgia-critic/15937-junior