Review: Once Dead

Once Dead (Richard Phillips; Amazon Publishing) is a passable airport thriller with some SF elements.

Jack Gregory should have died in that alley in Calcutta. Assigned by the CIA to kill the renegade reponsible for his brother’s death, he was nearly succeeding – until local knifemen take a hand. Bleeding, stabbed and near death, he is offered a choice: die, or become host to Ananchu – an extradimensional being who has ridden the limbic systems of history’s greatest slayers.

It’s a grim bargain. Ananchu will give him certain abilities, notably the ability to sense life at a distance and read the intentions of his enemies. But the cost is a near-uncontrollable addiction to danger and death. Gregory will literally be in constant struggle with an inner demon – and when the human who dragged his body from the alley is found insane, mumbling of the return of Jack the Ripper, a dark legend is reborn.

Airport-thriller action ensues as Gregory, believed dead by the CIA, goes freelance but is drawn into opposing a plot to cripple the U.S. with an EMP attack. There are lots of bullets, big explosions, a heavy from the Russian Mafia, treachery from rogues inside the CIA, torture scenes, exotic international locations, some sex, weapon porn, and a climactic Special-Ops-style assault on Baikonur. There’s not much surprising here, and the SF elements tend to recede into the background as the plot develops. There are clear indication that the author intends a series.

It’s not brilliant or terribly original, but it’s competently done. The author is a former Army Ranger; the gunplay, hand-to-hand fighting, and combat ops are written as by someone who has seen how it’s done right, if not done it himself. Read it on an airplane.


  1. For what it’s worth, Jack Gregory is a returning character from the author’s young-adult science fiction trilogy “The Rho Agenda”. In that series, Gregory’s abilities were more preternatural than supernatural, but the overall character bio matches.

  2. This reminds me a bit of David Drake’s Skyripper. It’s basically a modern-day thriller, with a bit of SF in the background.

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