Review by Godfrey Blackwell
Author: Msgr Robert Hugh Benson
Godfrey's Rating: 5 stars our of 5
Summary in a Sentence: A dystopian near-future novel about the rise of socialism, atheism, and ultimately the Antichrist; 1984 and Brave New World combined from a Catholic perspective and more accurate/prophetic than either work.
This is a novel that's been recommended to me many times and after finally reading it, I can't believe I didn't read it sooner. This work is a MUST READ for everyone, even moreso than the classics 1984 and Brave New World (which I think are very important) for its Catholic perspective which allows for a deeper understanding of all that is happening in our world.
As suggested above, where 1984 is a cautionary tale that depicts a world that "might have been", Lord of the World presents a prophetic description of what is happening to a certain extent in our current times. It is powerful because of its accuracy -- indeed Msgr Benson's nighmare world is daily becoming more reality before our eyes -- helps one understand the modern world, be forearmed against its blandishments, and is also encouraging to the Christian reader worn down by the events of our time.
The novel follows two main storylines, one that follows Father Percy Franklin, an English Catholic priest (for the Catholic perspective on things going on) and a parallel story following Oliver Brand an influential Labour MP and his wife Mabel (for the atheist/socialist perspective). At the beginning of the novel the world is on the brink of world war and catastrophe, when the enigmatic Julian Felsenburgh enters the world stage, saves the world from disaster and is ultimately elevated to a sort of ruler of a one-world government.
Having been written by a Catholic priest, Lord of the World describes a world where secularism and godless humanism have triumphed over traditional morality, yet without any graphic or salacious portions (as found in Orwell's and Huxley's works) to disturb the reader. The only barrier to younger readers is that the text is rather dense and it is serious reading.
The characters are very balanced and real, there are no caricatures and Msgr. Benson deals fairly with the anti-Catholic characters. The work does an amazing job of explaining theological truths and portraying Catholic worship and mental prayer without seeming to be too preachy. The work does tend to drag in a few sections of lengthy exposition (as was the style in the early 1900s) but on the whole, despite not having a lot of "action" is still a very engaging work. I cannot recommend it enough.
For those like me who don't have a lot of time to read, but can listen while commuting, Audible has a version read by Simon Vance which is excellent aside from Mr. Vance's pronunciation of Ecclesiastical Latin.