Fallen Nation: Babylon Burning, by James Curcio
Mythos Media, 9781419672651, 271 pp., 2007
Fallen Nation, James Curcio’s second book, takes up where Join My Cult! left off. Agent 139 and Jesus are in a maximum security mental institution held as suspected terrorists after a restaurant was blown up in the previous novel. Agent 139 wryly comments:
“Bottom line: ideas don’t count for a whole lot in this world, but on their own, they’re mostly benign. Ideals on the other hand can get you a special jacket with one sleeve. Ideals can get you shot.”
Agent 506 breaks them out via mysterious means, and, after a brief visit with Agent 140 fits them with a van tailored with all the tricks and tools they’ll need, the three of them set off on their way to new adventures. They soon pick up a hitchhiking guitarist and decide to form a band, Babalon. The van serves as a tour bus as they pick up groupies and collect followers, making waves wherever they go.
“I like the sentiment of anarchy, but you’re idealizing it. In a world of so many conflicting cultural signals, each person’s idea of what social responsibility is, and how it should be enacted differs. When there is differing opinion, there is conflict. When there is no difference of opinion, there is absolute fascism. Take your pick. The freedom of this ideal turns quickly into the lowest common denominator, the law of the jungle, as people’s priorities and ideals clash with one another. This is exactly how the world is right now, and how it has always been – the war of all against all…You want anarchy? You already have it. In disguise. Anarchy’s always been, and always will be.”
A government agent is charged with the task of eliminating Babalon, perceived as a threat to the status quo by Those In Charge. Cultural warfare becomes more than abstract theorizing when things escalate in a desert battle pitting agent against agent.
Similar to Jack Kerouac’s fictionalized account of adventures with his friends under various pseudonyms in On the Road, both Join My Cult! and Fallen Nation are partially autobiographical, featuring many of Curcio’s friends and bandmates (yes, Babalon was a real band). Fallen Nation is also reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, rich with drug-induced energy, combined with the occultism of Aleister Crowley.
It’s true, Fallen Nation would have benefited from a professional edit, but you won’t mind the plot holes, the rapid switch from first person to third, characters that appear and drop off the scene without word or explanation – the rapid pace of the novel carries the plot forward, too furious to be concerned with the particulars. It’s an enticing story apt to electrify occultism’s disenfranchised youth who rarely seem to concern themselves with such trivialities.
“Ok, so you’ve been having dreams. So have I, guess we have something in common. You, me, and six billion other brain damaged monkeys. Do you really expect me to believe that a book…is going to have an effect on anyone? I mean, do people even read anymore?”
While Join My Cult! has been described as a prologue to Fallen Nation, the latter can be read as a stand-alone – and far more easily, as Fallen Nation is a more lucid book. They’re bound to become classics in occult fiction.