the Little Red Reviewer

Opera Vita Aeterna by Vox Day (hugo nom)

Posted on: July 20, 2014


I’m really not sure what to say about this story, so I’ll start by discussing the plot:


In a generic western European low fantasy world, a lone elf pays a visit to a Dioscurine monastery. Abbot Walderan can’t figure out why a soulless elf (a high elf from the royal elven city at that!) would be interested in the simple lives these monks live. Turns out, the elf Bessarias is one of the most talented sorcerers at the elven Collegium.  A monk of the Tertullan order had visited the collegium, and before his death the man made a profound impression on Bessarias, who has been searching for the monk’s God ever since.


Walderan allows Bessarias to live in the monastery and study with the monks, with the promise that the elf won’t use his magic. Bessarias finds peace in the library, learns how to do illumination, and offers to create a complex illuminated manuscript for the order. The years pass, and Walderan soon finds it hard to see his elven friend as a soulless savage.  The two men have countless conversations on the nature of faith, religion, corruptibility, and the like. I think deep down, Walderan is thrilled to have a friend who challenges him, who forces him to think, instead of just agreeing with everything that’s already been written.

Many generations later, an older monk and his young charge are admiring manuscripts and codices in a library. They come across a complex illuminated manuscript that was penned over decades by a single hand. The illuminated letters feature human faces, all of them different, and it’s believed these faces are those of the artist monks friends and brothers. No one knows who created this manuscript, but everyone agrees it is a unique work of art.


I’m trying to figure out the point of this story.  That writing something down allows it to live longer than you?  To show religious people that someone they think is a heathen can help them gain immortality?  That over time, all sins are forgotten?  I missed a lot of the military jargon and references in “The Exchange Officers”, so no doubt I missed much of the religious jargon and references in this piece.
Regardless of what it was supposed to be about, or what I completely missed, I found it to be completely trope-tastic. Elves are tall and beautiful, with long straight hair and pointed ears. Non-believers are evil, soulless heathens. shape-shifters, and anything not human, are by default, demons. The worldbuilding is quite light (sure, we know the names of the forest and other villages, but that’s not worldbuilding, it’s map building), and I kept feeling like I was missing entire chapters.  It was like Tolkien fan fiction written by a religiously enthusiastic  church camp teenager. Leaving the religion stuff alone, it was very surprising to come across a piece on the Hugo ballot that didn’t contain a single female character.


9 Responses to "Opera Vita Aeterna by Vox Day (hugo nom)"

Thank you for reading this, so I don’t have to.


next year it’ll be your turn to read the shitty ones so I don’t have to.


Happy to take one for the team. Next year. Your review was remarkably charitable.


there are other authors whose politics and personal beliefs and I absolutely abhor, and I cringe every time they open their mouths. Sometimes I like their fiction, sometimes I don’t. I tried to treat this one the way I’ve treated those other authors.


Let us be honest, this was the single review we have all been waiting for. We know that Day is a horrible human, but most of us have not actually had the desire to see if he can write. The way he worked his way into the hugos is now forcing a few to try it.


as far as I can tell, he writes like a pre-teen boy.

this was the review I was avoiding like the plague. almost skipped it entirely.


I think “trope-tastic” is a pretty good one-word description of this one. I was surprised to see something like that nominated for a Hugo.


Yes, it says something that this was the best thing the man had written in a whole year. But then, I suspect it wasn’t nominated for its quality.


[…] “Opera Vita Aeterna” by Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands) […]


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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