Lord of the World
Robert Hugh Benson
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Lord of the World is a dystopian sci-fi book by Robert Hugh Benson, which was first published in 1907. It centres on the Antichrist and the end of the world, and has been called prophetic by the current Pope and the previous one. Whilst the whole Antichrist matter is one for Christians, it is true that Benson, like Jules Verne, did accurately predict some technological advances, such as weapons of mass destruction, passenger air travel, and interstate highways. The book is a dystopic vision of a near future world in which religion has, by and large, been rejected. The Catholic Church has retreated to Italy and Ireland, while the majority of the rest of the world is either Humanistic or Pantheistic. There is a one world government, and euthanasia is widely available. The plot follows the tale of a priest, Percy Franklin, who becomes Pope Silvester III, and a mysterious man named Julian Felsenburgh, who is identical in looks to the priest and who becomes Lord of the World.
This book has 233 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1907.
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Excerpt from 'Lord of the World'
Oliver Brand, the new member for Croydon (4), sat in his study, looking out of the window over the top of his typewriter.
His house stood facing northwards at the extreme end of a spur of the Surrey Hills, now cut and tunnelled out of all recognition; only to a Communist the view was an inspiriting one. Immediately below the wide windows the embanked ground fell away rapidly for perhaps a hundred feet, ending in a high wall, and beyond that the world and works of men were triumphant as far as eye could see. Two vast tracks like streaked race-courses, each not less than a quarter of a mile in width, and sunk twenty feet below the surface of the ground, swept up to a meeting a mile ahead at the huge junction. Of those, that on his left was the First Trunk road to Brighton, inscribed in capital letters in the Railroad Guide, that to the right the Second Trunk to the Tunbridge and Hastings district. Each was divided length-ways by a cement wall, on one side of which, on steel rails, ran the electric trams, and on the other lay the motor-track itself again divided into three, on which ran, first the Government coaches at a speed of one hundred and fifty miles an hour, second the private motors at not more than sixty, third the cheap Government line at thirty, with stations every five miles. This was further bordered by a road confined to pedestrians, cyclists and ordinary cars on which no vehicle was allowed to move at more than twelve miles an hour.
Beyond these great tracks lay an immense plain of house-roofs, with short towers here and there marking public buildings, from the Caterham district on the left to Croydon in front, all clear and bright in smokeless air; and far away to the west and north showed the low suburban hills against the April sky.
There was surprisingly little sound, considering the pressure of the population; and, with the exception of the buzz of the steel rails as a train fled north or south, and the occasional sweet chord of the great motors as they neared or left the junction, there was little to be heard in this study except a smooth, soothing murmur that filled the air like the murmur of bees in a garden.
Oliver loved every hint of human life—all busy sights and sounds—and was listening now, smiling faintly to himself as he stared out into the clear air. Then he set his lips, laid his fingers on the keys once more, and went on speech-constructing.
* * * * *
He was very fortunate in the situation of his house. It stood in an angle of one of those huge spider-webs with which the country was covered, and for his purposes was all that he could expect. It was close enough to London to be extremely cheap, for all wealthy persons had retired at least a hundred miles from the throbbing heart of England; and yet it was as quiet as he could wish. He was within ten minutes of Westminster on the one side, and twenty minutes of the sea on the other, and his constituency lay before him like a raised map. Further, since the great London termini were but ten minutes away, there were at his disposal the First Trunk lines to every big town in England. For a politician of no great means, who was asked to speak at Edinburgh on one evening and in Marseilles on the next, he was as well placed as any man in Europe.
He was a pleasant-looking man, not much over thirty years old; black wire-haired, clean-shaven, thin, virile, magnetic, blue-eyed and white-skinned; and he appeared this day extremely content with himself and the world. His lips moved slightly as he worked, his eyes enlarged and diminished with excitement, and more than once he paused and stared out again, smiling and flushed.
Then a door opened; a middle-aged man came nervously in with a bundle of papers, laid them down on the table without a word, and turned to go out. Oliver lifted his hand for attention, snapped a lever, and spoke.
"Well, Mr. Phillips?" he said.
"There is news from the East, sir," said the secretary.
Oliver shot a glance sideways, and laid his hand on the bundle.
"Any complete message?" he asked.
"No, sir; it is interrupted again. Mr. Felsenburgh's name is mentioned."
Oliver did not seem to hear; he lifted the flimsy printed sheets with a sudden movement, and began turning them.
"The fourth from the top, Mr. Brand," said the secretary.
Oliver jerked his head impatiently, and the other went out as if at a signal.
The fourth sheet from the top, printed in red on green, seemed to absorb Oliver's attention altogether, for he read it through two or three times, leaning back motionless in his chair. Then he sighed, and stared again through the window.
Then once more the door opened, and a tall girl came in.
"Well, my dear?" she observed.
Oliver shook his head, with compressed lips.
"Nothing definite," he said. "Even less than usual. Listen."
He took up the green sheet and began to read aloud as the girl sat down in a window-seat on his left.
She was a very charming-looking creature, tall and slender, with serious, ardent grey eyes, firm red lips, and a beautiful carriage of head and shoulders. She had walked slowly across the room as Oliver took up the paper, and now sat back in her brown dress in a very graceful and stately attitude. She seemed to listen with a deliberate kind of patience; but her eyes flickered with interest.
"'Irkutsk—April fourteen—Yesterday—as—usual—But—rumoured— defection—from—Sufi—party—Troops—continue—gathering— Felsenburgh—addressed—Buddhist—crowd—Attempt—on—Llama—last— Friday—work—of—Anarchists—Felsenburgh—leaving—for—Moscow—as —arranged—he….' There—that is absolutely all," ended Oliver dispiritedly. "It's interrupted as usual."