The New World - By Patrick Ness

‘THERE IT IS,’ my mother says, and what she means is that the dot we’ve been nearing for weeks, the one that’s been growing into a larger dot with two smaller dots circling it, has now become even larger than that, growing from a dot to a disc, shining back the light from its sun, until you can see the blue of its oceans, the green of its forests, the white of its polar caps, a circle of colour against the black beyond.

Our new home, the one we’ve been travelling towards since way before I was even born.

We’re the first ones to see it for real, not through telescopes, not through computer mapping, not even in my own drawings in the art classes I take on the Beta with Bradley Tench, but through just the couple centimetres of glass in the cockpit viewscreen.

We’re the first ones to see it with our own eyes.

‘The New World,’ my father says, putting a hand on my shoulder. ‘What do you think we’ll find there?’

I cross my arms and pull away from him.

‘Viola?’ he asks.

‘I’ve seen it already,’ I say, walking out of the cockpit. ‘It’s wonderful. Hooray. Can’t wait to get there.’

‘Viola,’ my mother says sharply, as I shut the cockpit door behind me. It’s a slotted door, so I can’t even slam it. I keep going to my small bedroom and barely shut my own door before there’s a knock on it. ‘Viola?’ my father says from the other side.

‘I’m tired,’ I say. ‘I want to sleep.’

‘It’s one o’clock in the afternoon.’

I don’t say anything.

‘We’ll be entering orbit in four hours,’ he says, his voice calm, not rising to my attitude at all. ‘There’ll be work for you to do starting in two.’

‘I know my duties,’ I say, still not opening the door.

There’s a pause. ‘It’s going to be all right, Viola,’ he says, his voice even kinder. ‘You’ll see.’

‘How do you know?’ I say back. ‘You’ve never lived on a planet either.’

‘Well,’ he says, brightening up, ‘I’ve got lots of hope.’

And there it is. That word I’m so completely sick of.


‘It’s us,’ my father said on the day they told me the news, and though he was trying to look serious, I could tell he was hiding a smile. We were having dinner, and under the table, his leg was bouncing up and down.

‘It’s us what?’ I said, though I could easily guess.

‘We’ve been selected,’ my mother said. ‘We’re the landing party.’

‘We leave in 91 days,’ my father said.

I looked down at my plate, which suddenly held a bunch of food I didn’t want to eat. ‘I thought it was going to be Steff Taylor’s parents.’

My father stifled a laugh. Steff Taylor’s father was such a bad pilot he could barely fly from ship to ship in the convoy without wrecking a shuttle.

‘It’s us, sweetheart,’ my mother said, my mother the pilot, my mother who was so much better at it than Steff Taylor’s father that she was almost certainly the reason we’d been chosen. ‘Remember we talked about this. You were excited.’

And that’s true. I was excited when they’d first told me they were going to put themselves forward. I was even more excited when Steff Taylor started bragging that her father was obviously going to be chosen.

The job was vital. We’d leave the sleeping settlers and the other caretaker families behind, speeding into the empty black beyond in a small scout ship. The convoy was still twelve months from the planet. We’d make the journey in five and spend seven months there – not just my parents, I’d have work to do, too – finding the best landing site for the five big settler ships and starting to prepare the ground for the first landings.

But it was more exciting when it could have been us. It was surprisingly less so when it was actually us.

‘You’ll get more training,’ my mother said. ‘You’ll learn a lot more, just like you wanted.’

‘It’s an honour, Viola,’ my father said. ‘We’ll be the first ones to see our new home.’

‘Unless the original settlers are still there,’ I said.

They exchanged a glance.

‘Are you unhappy with this, Viola?’ my mother asked, her face serious.

‘Would you not go if I was?’ I asked.

And they exchanged another glance.

And I knew what that meant.


‘Thirty minutes to orbital,’ my mother is saying as I step back into the cockpit, only a little bit late. She’s the only one there. My father must have gone down to the engine room already,