Once Dead by Richard Phillips Book Review

Once Dead is a highly detailed, eventful book, where actions are delivered blow by blow across the pages and the protagonist you'll love instantly. All the events are exciting, only that the tone of the writing is not. Or maybe it was just my Death Watch hangover. You get to read so many chapters first, for which by the way each chapter is so short, just to get the hang of the narration before you could truly appreciate it.

Once Dead Book Review, Richard Phillips
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Author: Richard Phillips
Series: The Rho Agenda Inception #1
Date Published: August 19, 2014
Publisher: 47North
Edition: paperback (I got a digital ARC via Netgalley.com)
ISBN: 1477824103
Size: 448

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Jack Gregory, the CIA’s top assassin, went rogue after a mission gone wrong. When a confrontation leaves him bleeding out on death’s doorstep, he is faced with an offer from a dark figure named Anchanchu. If Jack is willing to act as a human host for Anchanchu, the entity will revive him and give him another shot at life. Jack takes the deal...but he must now face the consequences of having the same dark creature in his head as some of history’s greatest villains. Struggling with desires and memories that are not his own, Jack is not the man he once was.

One year later, he is known internationally as The Ripper, assassin for hire, and is faced with having to wrest control of his dark compulsions while preventing a nuclear attack on the United States.

From the bestselling author of the Rho Agenda trilogy comes a globe-spanning thriller with a twist unlike anything you’ve ever seen....


I remember reading a report of Jack the Ripper's real identity. He was a Polish immigrant and his profile does not indicate as someone being deadly. The only reason for his overwhelming and undeserved infamy, not that he shouldn't be seen with extreme dishonor, rather he did not deserve such global attention, was because he was only identified and indicted 2 centuries after his death. Maybe he had his fits but the kind of Ripper described in this book is way more sinister than the real Ripper I read about. Fine, the classic Ripper was so evil, he'd keep an organ as a souvenir from the female victims he'd violated.

Starting straight to action, instead of getting hooked, I almost balked. That was the prologue. But then surprisingly, when the hero was implied to have died just on the first part of it, I grieved. I felt the same sorrow I felt when Westley of The Princess Bride died not once but twice or when James Schweitzer died albeit necessarily in Gemini Cell. It was in this moment that I realized I love the book already even before I get to Chapter One.

Seriously, what woman won't get attached when Jack Gregory was described in this manner,
If the man's will is as strong as his jawline and lean musculature seemed to indicate, perhaps there was yet hope.

This is what I like about books like this. As a girl, there's nothing better than falling in love with the male protagonist of the story. And I'd love to fall over and over again. It's not just about his physique alone but the character by which he was mold into. Jack "The Ripper" Gregory is nothing like Jack the Ripper most people know in English history. Where the latter is a depraved psychopath serial killer, the former is an intrinsically good ex-CIA agent. But due to the ill-luck fate that has befallen him, Jack Gregory has now become a host of a sinister worm just to be alive again.

In Once Dead, the evil was a different being, not our kind of demon, which just happened to have taken a ride with the original Jack the Ripper's body when he was still alive and now, it has taken residence in another Jack to carry on the name.

The story felt much like my recently read Gemini Cell where a conscious parasite is residing in the host, feeding on his rage and at the same time supplying the host with bloodlust to satisfy his cravings of adrenaline rush. Whereas dead Navy SEAL James Schweitzer's parasite was an ancient soul dug from the "void", "dead" ex-CIA Jack Gregory's a mind worm, that goes from one host to the next, just going along for the ride that will feed his need for bloodlust. Needless to say, Anchanchu the mind worm chooses the kind of host that will satiate its needs.

Jack Gregory is a perfect character to love. He's badass (used to be CIA's top agent), he's oh-so-gorgeous in his "average" height of just shortly over 6 feet and strong broad shoulders and most of all, intrinsically a good person despite being corrupted by a killer worm.

Like I said, this book is very eventful, not to mention long. While there are so many people involved, it revolved around saving the US from a german billionaire-scientist-gone-mad, Rolf Koenig. There's an upcoming rocket launch to explore the moon, Russian mafia headed by a particular Vladimir Roskov, CSI vs. NSA agenda, and a battle between ex-CIA and bad CIA agents.

Every element of the story sounds so credible when it comes to military details and especially that which involves physics and computer science. Just for example, there's this quite nice incorporation of personal-information-snooping software kernel into antivirus applications to extract any information about a person by whose activities are extrapolated by a monstrous software called The Big John not just to tell his whereabouts but also to assess his actions on his probable involvement with any suspicious activity and to anticipate his next move. Of course, facial recognition technology is already on the fly like that in facebook, only it's world-wide with CCTV integration and the database being available to certain intelligence agencies. Like I said, worldwide and not just limited to the US.

Of course, a book wouldn't be much if there's no emotional connection to the reader. And what better way to do it than to introduce a probable love interest? Well, Janet Price did arrive in the scene but unfortunately, she and Jack "didn't develop". She's a badass character one could love easily (she's the sole woman who become an Army Ranger and she surpassed Gregory's 1000-meter mark in marksmanship) but unfortunately, both of them weren't given much time for real romance to bud. If you feel gooey with any cheese given here, I'm sure it felt rushed.

Overall, it's a well-crafted story, intense and full of action. It's worth the read in all of its size.

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