Synopsis From Back Cover:
Switchcreek was a normal town in eastern Tennessee until a mysterious disease killed a third of it's residents and mutates most of the rest into monstrous oddities. Then, as quickly and inexplicably as it had struck, the disease-dubbed Transcription Divergence Syndrome (TDS)-vanished, leaving behind a population divided into three new branches of humanity: giant gray-skinned argos, hairless seal-like betas, and grotesquely obese charlies.
Paxton Abel Martin was fourteen when TDS stuck, killing his mother, transforming his preach father into a charlie, and changing one of his best friend, Jo Lynn, into a beta. But Pax was one of the few who didn't change. He remained as normal as ever. At least on the outside.
Having fled shortly after the pandemic, Pax returns to Switchcreek fifteen year later, following the suicide of Jo Lynn, looking for answers. What he finds is a town seething with secrets, among which murder may well be numbered. But there are even darker-and far weirder-mysteries hiding below the surface that will threaten not only Pax's future but the future of the whole human race.
Like his first novel, Pandemonium, The Devil's Alphabet has a strong, unique voice that does not fail to live up to it's potential. Daryl Gregory is one of those authors that is able to create a realistic alternate reality that the reader will not question. He is able to, in minute detail, map out a world that is so like our own that when he throws in a unknown cause of genetic mutations that completely change a town's inhabitant, you don't question the realism of it. You will really think, for the time you are reading the book, that this actually happened and could happen again.
He delves into every aspect of lives of these 3 new "races". From their reproductive needs to their moral imperatives, every thing changed for these people and those changes are even more evident in the lives of the first generation of children actually born into these clades (the author's word not mine). These changes are explored in depth and make the story even more realistic.
Pax was an interesting character to me. He was a teenager when the change happened and his whole adult life has been defined by those events in ways he doesn't realize. He is a drifter who lives life without really connecting with anyone on a truly emotional level. He will tell you himself, that he rarely finds himself attracted to women or men and when he does it only lasts for a few hour. That the few men and women who stuck around long enough to want something more from him than a quick fling, find themselves dealing with a emotionally closed off person who can't or won't deal with them. When he comes back to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend he doesn't even want to walk into the church during the service. He is so scared by what happened that it takes the death of someone he did care about to force him to deal with others on a emotional level. He reconnects with the father he thought didn't love him anymore, though do to certain circumstances, this is not a healthy bonding for him. He goes from not wanting to connect to being unable to disconnect from theemotional ties to his father. He becomes an addict, in more ways than one.
Even the way he relates to Jo Lynn's two daughters is an interesting incite into the man. These are children he thought could have been his at one point in time until it was discovered that beta women reproduce without sex. When he first comes back to town he tries to talk to them but doesn't get very far. By the end up the book he looks at these two girls in an almost paternal way and protects them when he discovers the truth about what happened to their mother.
This was a interesting take on a coming of age story. It was the story of a young man who loses himself due to horrific events then years later has to go home again in order to find himself and become the man he needs to be.