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ARS Nipun
Istara's tale
ARS Nipun, author
Istara is a superearth. Its people are stuck in the age of exploration. Will our hero, an earthling, survive his mission on this novel world where there's day, night and a daypause? Or will he succumb to Istara's strange beasts and even stranger phenomenon?
Software professional Nipun’s whisks young adult sci-fi readers into an alternate world with this short fantastical tale, a literary debut in the spirit of classic adventure storytelling. After schoolboy Jimmy tries a space-time gadget given to him by a fellow student named Tom, he is catapulted into another world, Istara, a planet in a distant solar system. With a local girl, Asani, serving as his tour guide, Jimmy weaves his way through an unfamiliar planet, losing and re-acquiring his space-time gadget while trying to determine the best way to get back to his own world while dealing with a turquoise-hued world with strange cycles—night, day, and daypause—plus skyrock showers and, as Jimmy puts it, “Blood-sucking creatures as big as me?”

After Asani is captured during a village raid, Jimmy works with Asani’s explorer-turned-fisherman friend, Ro, to help free her from detention, and, later, her activist father from a work camp, daring moves with the distinct possibility of ending in disaster. Once he has the transporter back, Jimmy struggles to find the ideal moment for utilizing the magic device and returning to earth while not betraying his new friends. Readers will empathize with Jimmy’s emotions as he soldiers on, attempting to right wrongs and come out of the adventure unscathed, despite outwitting the skull hoarders (a dreaded legion of pirates) and Istara’s dreaded Council, which makes the planet’s rules and regulations and jails those who don’t agree with them.

Nipun does a fine job of describing Istara’s otherworldly atmosphere (“a group of six legged creatives that had been basking in the sun… had slender bodies covered in hard, spiny scales and large, menacing heads”) abounding with blue-beaked and pink-tailed megafauna, human-sized bloodsucking beetles ,and dastardly pirates. Spirited Asani, practical Ro and imaginative Jimmy make an excellent team, with each’s strengths complementing the others. Young readers who love larger-than-life interplanetary adventures will devour Nipun’s fantastical tale.

Takeaway: Imaginative other-planetary adventure in the spirited classic vein.

Comparable Titles: John David Anderson’s Stowaway, Erin Entrada Kelly’s We Dream of Space.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: B