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The Devil's Alphabet

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  1,316 ratings  ·  165 reviews
From Daryl Gregory, whose Pandemonium was one of the most exciting debut novels in memory, comes an astonishing work of soaring imaginative power that breaks new ground in contemporary fantasy.

Switchcreek was a normal town in eastern Tennessee until a mysterious disease killed a third of its residents and mutated most of the rest into monstrous oddities. Then, as quickly a
Paperback, 388 pages
Published November 24th 2009 by Del Rey (first published 2009)
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3.56  · 
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 ·  1,316 ratings  ·  165 reviews

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Sep 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: urban-fantasy, muf
Paxton “Pax” Martin is going home for a funeral. Like so many others born in small rural towns, he migrated to the big city, only to find himself trapped in a cycle of menial jobs and pointless drudgery. But unlike so many who make that journey, Pax was running away from his nightmares, not running towards his dreams. During his fourteenth summer, the a mysterious disease swept through his hometown of Switchcreek, killing a quarter of the population and drastically transforming almost all the re ...more
Jun 30, 2011 rated it really liked it

Even if you're not familiar with Daryl Gregory's books, you've probably noticed the cover of this book while browsing the book store -- it's very striking, a bizarre face that at first glance defies attempts to understand what is "wrong" with it. It's unusual and certainly eye catching.

I liked this even more than Gregory's previous book, "Pandemonium". Pax Martin, unchanged survivor of an epidemic that devastated his hometown of Switchcreek, TN, returns home for the funeral of his childhood fri
Candice Kamencik
Jan 17, 2012 rated it liked it
I am torn on how to rate this book. Do I rate it on just what is there, or what *could* have been (and I wish was) there? It should probably get a 3.5, but since I can't, I have to go with a 3.

I have to start with the good - I blew threw this book! I really, *really* wanted to know what happened next, and the little bits of tantalizing information kept pulling me on. Definitely a good read in that respect. Unfortunately, I feel like by the end I had been dropped on my face, and all the foreshado
Oct 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is most commonly rated horror but it is not horror at all. It is purely speculative fiction. A small town in Tennessee is stricken with a mysterious disease which divides the survivors into three new branches of humanity: giant gray skinned argos, hairless seal-like betas, and morbidly obese charlies. The science is a bit thin on how these changes happened, but that is okay, because the story is really about how do the survivors adapt to these changes. How does this town maintain its c ...more
Aug 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: status-borrowed
Switchcreek was once a small town like any other, until a mysterious disease swept through, killing many residents and transforming even more into one of three new humanoid species. Pax is an even rarer oddity: a human left untouched by the disease. Now, 13 years after leaving, Pax returns to his childhood home to attend a friend's funeral, and his stay in Switchcreek may reveal much about his own past and the town's strange biology and society. The Devil's Alphabet's intrigue is its premise. Un ...more
Jul 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was my second Gregory book in 3 days, because I loved the first one, Raising Stony Mayhall, so much. Maybe it was too soon or maybe Stony set up my expectations so very high, this book fell a bit short for me. It was still very good and very well written, but something about the subject matter just didn't wow me. The best thing about this book, just like with the last one, was the wild idea grounded with such incredible interesting characters. It was filed in scifi at the library, but it's ...more
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Paxton returns to attend a funeral at his small hometown where most of the population went through a genetic Change that resulted in them being a different clade than humans.

Good thing: His three groups (Alphas- extremely tall and struggling with violence, Betas - females who become pregnant solo with their own offspring, and Charlies - hugely round or muscular) seem almost real.

Bad thing: I wanted more of Deke in particular and more of this world in general.

I've read all of this author's work
Dana "dew"
Oct 20, 2010 rated it liked it

Hmmm... This book is a bit difficult to rate. <3.5 stars>

I picked this book up solely on the cover art.
Although... I did read part of the synopsis from the back cover --- which I almost never do--- so I had some idea as to the premise of the book.

The premise is basically this:

Small town in Tennessee is the site of a mysterious disease that 1/3 of the population doesn't survive and the vast majority that do are changed into one of three strains of strange new beings: Argos, Betas, and Char
Jan 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: e-books, read-2011
An interesting old time southern town story that happens to be the epicenter of a world changing scientific anomaly. This is a story that is a conspiracy, a mystery, and a sons acceptance of his past and his heritage. The science behind the "changes" are interesting and thought provoking. Like Gregory's first novel, this one uses off humor to drive the story forward. Pax is a believable protagonist, and I found him easy to like and to empathize with. The novel is short and to the point and gives ...more
Gregor Xane
Nov 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
Very engrossing. BUT some questions remained unanswered at the end. I don't need everything answered, of course. I figured I'd never be given the "real" reason behind TDS (and I'm fine with that), but I did want to know why Pax was so susceptible to the vintage. If the author is trying to say that Pax simply has an addictive personality and that makes him open to the "drug's" effects, I'm not buying it. Being a pot smoker doesn't make you more likely to lick your own father's blister pus to get ...more
Jun 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is about several of Daryl Gregory's book so I'm posting in on each of those books.

Moving away from your childhood home usually hurts, and so does coming back. Returning makes old aches ache again, and creates new one as being physically close points out the distance that grows between people as we age and change. Daryl Gregory’s fiction emphasizes that, and demonstrates that all this shit is extra intense if you’re possessed by a demon, or if you’re a zombie, or if your home town was the si
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Another good book kicking off the first month of this year's reading challenge:

I'm currently studying medicine so I enjoyed being familiar with some of the scientific stuff that were mentioned in this book. Really hit close to home. But overall, this book wasn't as what I had expected--which wasn't a bad thing-- since I thought I would be immersed into a disease-ridden dystopian setting but found myself in a town full of strange-looking creatures behaving like very normal people instead (which I
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Je vais devenir un inconditionnel de Daryl GREGORY j'aime beaucoup son regard, sa façon de raconter l'histoire, ses multiples personnages tous plus vrais et vivants, du genre que l'on côtoie dans la vie Dans ce livre, le héros, Pax, n'est pas un héros plutôt un homme "ordinaire" avec de nombreux défauts et quelques qualités ... L'intérêt de l'histoire est que petit à petit l'auteur nous force à réfléchir sur les relations humaines, sur la destinée (pourquoi lui et pas moi ?) sur la différence (e ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
In this intriguing variation on the theme of "you can't go home again," Paxton Martin returns to the small town of Switchcreek, TN, after an absence of thirteen years. He has come for the funeral of his close friend and lover from his high school years, Jo Lynn. He had left Switchcreek after his minister father found him in bed with both Jo Lynn and their mutual friend Deke. It was also thought that he was possibly the father of the child Jo Lynn was pregnant with when he left. But more importan ...more
Aug 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
This book is centered around a small southern community called Switchcreek - where, over a decade ago, an unfortunate and mysterious epidemic occurred which turned most of the population into 3 distinct groups of mutant-like 'clades' - The Agros, who are thin, tall, fast and strong - The Betas, the females of which can procreate without the need of any male interaction - and The Charlies, short, and fat, with males that have a strange side effect in their later years.

This one again suffered fro
Dec 20, 2010 rated it liked it
This book started out great, then fizzled towards the end. The main guy, Pax, comes back to his hometown at the death of his childhood best friend, who has apparently hung herself, but he doesn't believe it. While there he sort of reconnects with his other old best friend, and a whole complicated relationship with his estranged father. Pax left the town when he was about 14 because the town mysteriously went through changes, where a third of the town died, and most of the rest, except for Pax an ...more
Jul 10, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Paxton Martin, a preacher’s son, is returning to his hometown of Switchcreek, TN, for the funeral of a childhood friend. Pax left Switchcreek 12 years ago, soon after an outbreak of Transcription Divergence Syndrome devastated the population of the small town. TDS, or The Changes, killed a third of the people living in Switchcreek and caused three different mutations in most of the people left alive. The victims of TDS-A, or Argos, became gray-skinned and grew to abnormal heights. TDS-B victims, ...more
Feb 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
If there was a 4.5 star option, I would give it to this book. I can't give it a 5 for two reasons - the main character, Paxton, slipped between useless and unlikable, and clever and funny, far too often to be interesting or realistic. Secondly, this is another book that wanted to be science-fiction but didn't know enough about the science to properly fictionalize it.

Aside from that, this novel's execution is almost perfect: the small town politics, the divisions between people, and the way that
Jan 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, deeply-strange
I went to the library looking for Daryl Gregory's "Pandemonium", which was checked out. But this one was in, and the cover drew me like a magnet. (It's a neat trick with the eyes--wish I'd thought of it.) The story begins like this: Paxton Martin, lately of Chicago, is returning home to the small town of Switchcreek, Tennessee, for the funeral of a childhood friend who has committed suicide. Switchcreek is no ordinary place, however. Fifteen years before, the entire town was infected with what's ...more
Jul 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, mystery
Well-written and interesting....but the main character is not the brightest, has a fairly blah personality, and a genetic predilection for drug addiction. Which...kind of puts a damper on me loving this book the way I liked the author's previous book Pandemonium. Also, they never do figure out how exactly the disease/transformations are occuring; they throw around some outlandish ideas of alternate universes, but while I read the story, I never felt that the idea was truly serious. The story has ...more
Jan 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Daryl Gregory is now an author that I will be looking out for. His debut novel, Pandemonium, was unique and interesting. I never knew what was coming next. I can say the same of The Devil's Alphabet. It's very different from his first book, yet equally creative and compelling. He builds his situations and settings in ways that make them vivid to the reader without describing every little thing in minute detail. As a result, the reader becomes part of the creative process. His characters are so h ...more
Mar 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
Much like Pandemonium, Gregory's debut novel, The Devil's Alphabet feels tepid -- like washing hands in water too cool to be comfortable, yet ultimately not bothersome enough to fiddle with the faucet knob (you simply know that in a few seconds, the scrubbing will be done), and just like Pandemonium, I rolled quickly into the second half realizing that while this book wasn't going anywhere very interesting, it would be over before I knew it.

Gregory feels like the sort of writer who lacks the ima
Gerri Leen
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorite-author
Daryl Gregory is one of the most exciting new authors to come on the scene in a long, long time. He manages to take the extraordinary and put it to the level of the everyday. I've seen him compared to Stephen King, and that's probably right (I don't enjoy King's fiction all that much, although I adore his On Writing). This book is very different than Gregory's first novel Pandemonium, but still packs a very large punch as he once again uses non humans to examine the human condition. And once aga ...more
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Daryl Gregory can really write. This novel works on so many levels. It imagines the introduction of three distinct new races into a small town in the deep south--A, B and C--that allow the author to explore issues of fear, prejudice and segregation on many levels without ever mentioning whether the actors were originally black or white. Seamlessly combines sci-fi/fantasy elements with southern a gothic mystery. The ending was to me a surprise. Super! If you like well written novels with a unique ...more
Jun 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Oh dear, the amount of issues covered in this book is amazing. It's not a very action heavy read but it made me think a lot and touched me at times I didn't expect to be touched. Pax felt very close to me for some reason and a lot of who he is as a person tugged at my heartstrings and made me root for him. I pretty much loved all of his relationships, though it's especially his relationship to Deke and Jo (and her girls) that hold a special place in my heart.

All in all, this was such a human sto
Aug 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Very unusual book- hard to categorize- probably best fits Science Fiction. A small town gets hit with a mysterious disease that kills some, mutates others and skips a few others. As the mutated people reach reproductive maturity, more mutations seem to occur. A man who was "skipped" and left the town, returns years later for the funeral of a friend and gets involved in town politics, possible murder, and other troubles. Very well written, gripping, with interesting characters- both likeable ones ...more
Feb 01, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: benicia, 2010
I'll have to read Pandemonium as well, I liked this book a lot. The science specifics weren't convincing to me but I had no trouble suspending my disbelief for the sake of a great story. What detracted most from the experience of the read for me was the pacing of the plot; where I wanted to go faster, the story slowed down. When I felt a need for further exploration of a situation or character, I'm bustled right along. I look forward to more work from this writer.
Mar 23, 2010 rated it did not like it
I stopped reading this one. The story is about genetic mutations that came on to a small number of people in a small town in Tennessee. There are 3 new "human" types after the virus or whatever hits. One person unaffected comes back for a funeral and the story continues. Too much self recrimination on the hero's part and not having any idea of where the book might go caused me to put it down.
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Award-winning author of Spoonbenders, We Are All Completely Fine, Afterparty, Pandemonium, and others. Some of his short fiction has been collected in Unpossible and Other Stories.

He's won the World Fantasy Award, as well as the Shirley Jackson, Crawford, Asimov Readers, and Geffen awards, and his work has been short-listed for many other awards, including the Nebula . His books have been translat
“If this is what it's like to be human, he thought, no wonder the world is so fucked up.” 4 likes
“Jesus, he 's blogger," Pax said. "Arrest him, Deke.” 2 likes
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