Lord of the World
In the early part of the 20th Century a form of Marxism called Herveism came into power in England. It was tied into a form of humanism & behind it all was Freemasonry. By the start of the 21st Century,except for those who were still faithful Catholics, a spirit of hopelessness has fallen over England as well as most of the rest of the world. Euthenasia has become an accepted way to end your life. But not only for physical illness. It is also allowed for those who just do not want to go on living.
Rome has been ceded to the Vatican in return for their surrender of all other Church buildings in Italy. The Catholic Church, headed by Pope John XXVIV. (This numbering was based on the fact that the last John was antipope John XXIII, something that was ignored when the Blessed John XXIII took his name in 1958. Only Ireland & Rome have remained faithfully Catholic. Throughout the rest of the world there is only a small percentage who are still Catholic. For the most part, people have become freemasons. There are some strongholds of Eastern religions, but there are no longer any protestant churches in existance. The only Christian Church is the Catholic Church. & all the Eastern rites have been surpressed. The only rite celebrated is the Tridentine rite.
I found that last fact a bit unbelievable. Even if the reason was unity. But this was, I suspect based on a bit of prejudice on the part of the author. Back then most Roman Catholics knew little about the Eastern Catholics & there was much prejudice against the differences in their rites, etc.
As far as the political landscape, there existed 3 basic powers, the Eastern Empire, the American Republic & the European Union. At the opening of the book the Eastern Empire is threatening Europe. Additionally, all royal houses have been deposed. The royal families have all moved to Rome, including the Chinese emperor. & all those that weren't Catholic have converted to Catholicism.
It is probably the technological part where this book is the most dated. Long distance travel is done via a form of air ship, volor, that is like the zeppelin. There are no computers. Communication is done mainly by letter & telegraph.
There are 3 main characters in the book. Fr. Perry Franklin, a priest living in London. Part of his responsibilities are to observe what is going on & report it to the Pope. He is a devout Catholic who is troubled by the huge falling away, apostasy, of Catholics, lay & ordained.
Next there is Julian Felsenburgh. He is a mystery man who seems to have come from nowhere & rises ultimately to control the world. While I am not saying Obama is the antiChrist, it struck me that there are many similarities between Obama & Felsenburgh. Felsenburgh & Fr. Franklin are virtually identical in their looks.
Then ast of the 3 is Oliver Brand. He starts out as the new member from Croydon. He hooks his wagon to Felsenburgh & rises in power as a result.
The main supporting characters, besides the Pope include Brand's wife Mabel & his dying mother. Another is Mr. Francis. He starts the book as a priest. Later he leaves the faith & ends up being the main liturgest for the new world religion being set up.
With the obvious exception of Felsenburgh, the main characters & many of the supporting characters are well developed. We get to know what they are thinking, what motivates them, there hopes & even their dreams.
The novel is divided into 4 parts, the Prologue, Book I The Advent, Book II The Encounter, & Book III The Victory.
The Prologue serves to set the scene for what will develop in the main body of the novel. At times it drags, but despite what the author said, it should not be skipped, even by those who dislike prologues.
The 1st part of the book looks at the rise of Felsenburgh from obscurity as an unknown from America to, although the term is never used, the AntiChrist ruling the world. The 2nd part focuses on the development of the World religion as well as the attempts to wipe out the Pope & the Catholic Church. Without giving anything away, the last part focuses on the final attack on the Catholic Church & the end of the World. The way Benson describes it has a very strong Eucharistic foundation, something I found very satisfying as I thought about it afterwords.
I will say I found what Papa Francesco said, that the book is prophetic in its way. It does capture the spirit of the world we find growing in this day & age, the time the book is set in. We see many Catholics giving up the tenets of the faith. People are denying the faith. Euthenasia is becoming acceptable. The recent UN Committee attack on the Church's teachings on abortion, contraception & sexuality could be seen as the 1st major shot across the bow by that spirit of the world. Again, I am not saying we are seeing the rise of the actual AntiChrist. But the book does give us insight into where we could be heading. & why it is all the more important for us faithful Catholics to defend the faith as well as boldly proclaim the truths that God has handed on to us through the Church.
I have tried not to give away too much of the plot. Part of what makes the book so good is how he develops the story to bring us to the end of the world. Benson has interwoven the stories of the main characters in a way that is anything but contrived. Yes there are coincidences that bring about the meeting of Brand & Fr. Franklin. But they are anything but contrived. In fact, they help add to the believability of the story.
So if you are looking for a solid read, with a story that holds your interest, Lord of the World is well worth it.