Personal history Edit
Her early life, like that of many Ultras, is shrouded in mystery. Aboard the Nostalgia, she was responsible for monitoring and investigating the Cache Weapons. It was during her search for a means to control the hell-class weapons that she recruited -- or more accurately, abducted -- Ana Khouri (who was planted in the role by the Mademoiselle), in 2546.
Ilia maintained a long friendship with her captain, John Brannigan, and was the only one to visit him regularly during his necessary confinement in very deep reefersleep, used to slow down the onset of Melding Plague in his body. She later disengaged the reefersleep and warmed him up fully, allowing his body to merge with the Nostalgia for Infinity as the only way to save it from an attack.
Decades later, in a plot hatched with Khouri, Volyova helped organize the evacuation of Resurgam, the first human-colonised planet to be destroyed by the Inhibitors. She prevented the suicide of Captain Brannigan, by then indistinguishable from the ship. By doing so she exposed herself to hard vacuum, the damage proving nearly fatal, but preserving the ship and thus the last chance of survival for the inhabitants of Resurgam.
She later died on a suicide mission attacking the Inhibitors around Resurgam in an attempt to slow them down, giving the Nostalgia for Infinity the best possible chance of escape.
Her actions -- while heroic -- had no measurable effect on the Inhibitors or their solar weapon, and all cache weapons that she took were presumably destroyed.
The woman's face was unremarkable. Almost monochromatically pale of complexion, short dark hair, and a facial structure somewhere between elfin and skeletal, framing deepset, narrow, slanted eyes which dispensed little compassion. She had hardly changed at all.
But then, that was the point of Ultras. If subjective decades had passed for Sylveste since their last meeting, then for Volyova it might only have been a handful of years; a tenth or a twentieth of the time. For her, their last meeting would be a thing of the relatively recent past, whereas for Sylveste it felt like an event consigned to the dusty annals of history. It placed him at a disadvantage, of course.
For Volyova, his mannerisms - the more predictable aspects of his behaviour - would still be fresh in her mind; he would be an adversary not long met. But Sylveste had barely recognised Volyova's voice until now, and when he tried to recall whether she had been more or less sympathetic to him on their previous meeting, his memory failed him. Of course, it would all come back, but it was that very slowness of recall which gave Volyova her undoubted edge.
After two or three repetitions, he had the whole of her monologue assembled in his head, and was almost certain he could have regurgitated it word for word. It was indeed curt. They knew what they wanted, these Ultras. And they knew what it would take to get it.
"I am Triumvir Ilia Volyova of the lighthugger Nostalgia for Infinity' was how she introduced herself. No helloes; not even a perfunctory admission of gratitude for the fates having allowed them to cross space to Resurgam.
Such niceties, Sylveste knew, were not exactly Ilia Volyova's style. He had always thought of her as the quiet one; more concerned with housekeeping her hideous weapons than condescending to engage in anything resembling normal social intercourse. More than once he had heard the other crewmembers joke - and they hardly ever joked - about how Volyova preferred the company of the vessel's indigenous rats over her human crewmates.
Perhaps they had not really been joking.
- Ilia is a major point-of-view character in both Revelation Space and Redemption Ark.
- She is a (self-described) brezgatnik, a Russish term for an Ultranaut that has never carried any implants or augmentations inside their body.
- Ilia is a rare female name, a derivative of the Russian male name Ilya, which itself is the Russian rendering of the Hebrew name Eliyahu and its Greek form, Elias (Elijah or Elias in English, Eli for short). As a variant of Ilya, the given name Ilia sees a degree of unisex use, used as a feminine version of the male-only Ilya, and occassionally as a male name, merely a variation of Ilya. As a female name, Ilia appears very rarely in a few other Slavic languages, with slightly altered ortography (e.g. Iľa in Slovak, now considered a rare and old-fashioned name). The surname Volyova, with a feminine suffix, seems to be closely related to certain real world Ukrainian surnames.
- Volyova has also appeared in some fan art of the series' characters:
- In a 2009 post on his older blog, Alastair Reynolds noted that his mental image of Ilia Volyova was quite different to how some fans of the Revelation Space series perceived her: "Ilia Volyova, to a degree of worried bemusement on my side, has become something of a gun-totin' favorite among many of my male readers, despite my insistence that I always visualised her as a world-weary Judi Dench, rather than a pneumatic Angelina Jolie. Clearly she came over as more Lara Croft than I intended, which is evidence of nothing more than a writer failing to communicate their vision." 
In the audiobook adaptations of Revelation Space and Redemption Ark, narrator John Lee portrays Volyova with a rather nonchalant tone of voice and a faint Russian-style accent.