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Piggies
Nick Gifford
Puffin paperback £4.99

review by Gary Couzens

Walking home one day, young Ben Aynsley is caught in a storm. Lightning strikes... and then Ben finds himself somewhere else. He's still in the town he knows, but it's somehow different. Vampires walk the streets, feeding off 'ferals', and soon Ben's life is in danger.
   Nick Gifford is a pseudonym for Keith Brooke, who with this novel makes his debut as a writer for teenagers. We live in a time when horror fiction is dead or moribund, or so we're told. It's not published for adults unless it's written by a big name, or can be disguised as dark fantasy or particularly graphic crime fiction. But move over to the teen-fiction shelf, and horror is thriving. R.L. Stine is one of the best-selling writers alive, and that's not to mention the Point Horror imprint and its imitators. And recently, writers like Melvin Burgess have shown that there really isn't very much that's out of bounds for a teenage audience - it's more a matter of approach than of content.
   Piggies has a fast-moving plot and is written in short, almost breathless, sentences, but that's no bad thing. Another attraction of the best teen fiction is length: there's no obligation to pad novels out to publisher-mandated word-counts. Piggies gets in, tells its story and gets out again, in a wordage that would make it a long novella (albeit one, due to print size, spread over 214 pages) were it published for adults. It's short and sharp and shows most novels published nowadays up as unnecessarily bloated. In fact, my main regret is that this novel certainly could be longer as there's more about this world we could learn - a sequel maybe?
   There are overtones for the taking, particularly in the later stages, which show us ferals kept in "piggeries." Or you can simply read Piggies as a taut, suspenseful horror novel that you can finish in a single sitting if you like. It leaves you wanting more, and that's the main thing.
Piggies by Nick Gifford

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