In Revelation Space, Volyova puts the Nostalgia For Infinity into reverse at 10 g acceleration. This saves her life because she's falling down an elevator shaft at the time. It also kills Nagorny who hits the ceiling at high velocity. Somehow everyone in reefersleep survived - possibly reefersleep caskets are damped to permit high acceleration. Did I miss exposition somewhere that accounts for everything else in the ship not bolted down also flying 'up'? Did Volyova spend months cleaning up the mess? Is this an oversight?

  • was there not garden sections on the ship?
    – fbstj
    Jan 7, 2012 at 16:30
  • Long past when it would have helped, but the ship was never put into reverse (that would have involved turning the ship around) - she simply turns off the engines, which removes the acceleration and thus the force which is making her fall down the lift shaft.
    – Moo
    Aug 14, 2014 at 13:59
  • Volyova does put the ship into reverse, there is no ambiguity about that, @Moo. But I see why you thought she didn't. Two quotes from there: "What moved instead, was the ship: rushing upwards around her. She was not accelerating at all ..." And "... she could stop her fall -- her apparent fall-- by ramping up the ship's thrust..." To stop her "falling" she merely has to cut the thrust to the engine, as you said. But she would still have the velocity achieved by those seconds of acceleration, she would still be "falling". This is why she puts the ship into reverse without turning it around.
    – user65649
    May 5, 2016 at 4:26

2 Answers 2


I'll have to look back at the section in particular because I don't recall an explicit mention of this..

But, I recall getting the impression throughout the books that Volyova was always spending months cleaning up "the mess" around the ship. I assume the author didn't feel it required a special mention about some extra work to be done.

Also worth considering - if you lived your life in an environment when the gravity could fail or change at any time, I would imagine you would generally take care not to leave items unsecured.

  • 1
    On a closer reading, I note that when they enter Nagorny's quarters it's stated that everything but his homemade coffin was secured, but also that Nagorny was a 'neat freak'. Given what you and Ingmar have said about the ship constantly changing thrust, I imagine that the true situation would have been a bit of cleaning and repair made manageable by best practices in the inhabited portions of the ship. Jan 7, 2012 at 3:26

If I remember correctly, the Ultra ships described in the book, and the Nostalgia for Infinity in particular did end up with all kinds of acceleration from zero to 10g (in that scene) and in at least two directions (up and down along the length axis). I also recall having some spinning interior sections for simulated gravity during non-thrust phases. Therefore it is very likely that the ships interior is designed and outfitted in such a way to allow for this, much like equipment in a seafaring vessel is usually stowed away or tied down in a such a way that (most of it) doesn't fly around when the ship moves.

Additionally most of the ship was unused, so Volyova probably just never looked at or cared about the things flying around in most compartments.

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