EP01: Stay Away From Abandoned Towns

Hello and welcome to my first podcast episode!

Books Mentioned in the Podcast

The Lost Village book cover
The Dark Gar
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Episode Transcript

Hello, and welcome to Mel Talks Books. A podcast where I’m your host Mel, and I enjoy talking about the books I’ve read. Alright, let’s just dive right in.

This is my first episode. And I am so excited to be starting a podcast. I’ve tried some other avenues for talking about books, but I’m really excited to just kind of share the books that I’ve been reading with you all. And hopefully get some feedback and discussion about what you get to read and what you are enjoying currently.

So, today we’re gonna be talking about The Lost Village by Camilla Sten. She is a Swedish author. And this was actually translated by Alexandra Fleming. It’s a horror novel. And I was really excited to read this one. I’ve recently gotten back into reading horror after a long absence. So I’ve been really thrilled with a lot of the books that I’ve read.

I know some of the first ones I can recall as a kid were Wait Till Helen Comes and The Dark Garden. Goosebumps. I really liked those spooky ghost related stories. I liked a little bit of jump-scare. And just not knowing whether or not something was really happening, or if there was a supernatural explanation to what the characters were going through. And as I’ve gotten older, I think I’ve really stayed attached to like the ghost story elements.

So, when I saw The Lost Village and I read the plot for it, I was like this is right up my alley, and I can’t wait to get into it. Now I’m looking for horror novels that are more psychologically compelling, and things that have ghosts and mystery and intrigue and hopefully not a super predictable ending, but not a lot of gore.

Before we get started, I do want to mention that this is a full on discussion of the book. So there will be spoilers regarding the plotlines, characters, and the overall mystery of the novel. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, please go read this book first and then come back and join me that way I haven’t ruined anything for you.

Book Description

Now let’s just give you a quick rundown of what The Lost Village is about. So Alice is with her team, they want to create a documentary about a village that all of its occupants had disappeared. So about 900 people had disappeared from this town about 50 years ago, Alice’s grandmother was someone who grew up in that town. And so she actually had family members who disappeared. And that obviously stuck with her, she told Alice about it. And Alice kind of became obsessed with it for the rest of her life.

So she’s in her, I think, late 20s. And she’s trying to start this documentary. So it’s her and four other people. They’re gonna go to this town and try to get some pictures and videos so that they can hopefully get financial backing to be able to create the documentary and hopefully solve the mystery of what happened to the occupants of this town. Also, there was a newborn baby found, and a woman was stoned to death. So there’s a lot of mystery to solve here.

We also get interspersed in different chapters, we actually get to see what’s going on in the past. So we are looking at Elsa, who is Alice’s great grandmother, and she lives at the town. And so all this is going up prior to the events that will lead to the disappearance. So by the end of the novel, we will find out in the future, what the heck’s going on, but also in the past, figure out what the whole mystery was through the revelation of that person.

There are also letters that are put into this in the present time that Alice’s grandmother received from her sister [Aina] also leading up to the events of the random disappearance. So we’ve got a few different perspectives going on all within the same family. And it’s just kind of going along the same timeline of the present craziness happening, but also the past.

Scene Building

I really enjoyed the idea of the plot, creepy towns, people disappearing, what’s not to like, right? And I like documentaries that are going to solve mysteries, this doesn’t actually really have a lot of documentary aspects to it. So if that’s something that you’re interested in, you’re not going to find this here since they don’t actually do the documentary. It’s just them trying to start it. So you don’t really get that in terms of plot. But I like the premise of it.

It’s someone whose family was involved. And this giant mystery that in 50 years was never solved and who wouldn’t want to find out what happened to 900 people who just disappeared off the face of the earth. So I thought that the author did a really great job with setting up the scene for this story.

They get to this town, it’s out in the middle of nowhere. I mean, like 50 miles away from anything, the reception for their phones doesn’t work. So they go through these woods, they clear into this town. And it’s really just surrounded by trees and nothingness. You can’t walk anywhere. You can’t call anybody. I mean, she really had that isolation element that you look for in a good novel like this.

And I thought it did a good job, like this is a town that was abandoned. So it was very creepy. These houses were rundown, we weren’t sure what the integrity of bridges were, you know, be careful where you step because these things are rotting. And I think that really added into not just the supernatural. While this is really weird, and we want to find out what’s going on. And as creepy things start to happen, like, is this real or not? But, just the real danger of going to a place that no one has really stepped foot in for 50 years.

And I mean, these houses still had, like half drunk coffee mugs and things in them. I mean, it was just creepy. And you didn’t really know why. But obviously, they all left right away. And then on top of that you have like the real elements of asbestos, and lead and any other elements that used to be in buildings that you’ve got these real world problems that are also being hazardous to their health or what not. And then you wonder to like, Well, can that psychologically affect you? Right? What happens if you inhale all this stuff? Is that gonna make me go crazy?

I don’t know. We’re just trying to figure it all out at the same time and keep ourselves alive. But yeah, I thought the author did a really good job of setting it up, you really felt like the characters were isolated, and that there was nowhere that they can go. So when stuff started to happen, you really got that sense of, “Oh, my gosh, what are we going to do?” But obviously, because this is a horror novel, once they get there, things do start to happen. Very slowly.

It took us about 150 pages, about half of this book, before things really started to get moving. So the first 150, we’re basically setting up, I guess, the isolation and some of the character relationships, we did get some movement and some creepy things happening at the beginning, there were people who may or may not have been there, or we heard some laughing or footsteps. So once again, was that somebody else? Who was that, so you got a little bit of that coming in and seeping through, but it was very slow and very light, always with some kind of explanation.

So it’s kind of weird. Like, where’s this going? And I felt that because it was so slow, and so spread out, it was hard to figure out where is this author going with the spooky aspects of it? Like, are we trying to say there are ghosts? Are we trying to say that this town is haunted? Are we trying to say that there are still people here, right, like what direction? Or is it just them kind of creeping themselves out just by being here. I, yeah, it was really hard to kind of figure out what direction we are going in.

Once you got to the second half of the book, it definitely got more jam packed. A lot of stuff happened, they got vans blowing up. You had people disappearing. You had people dying. All the good stuff that you’re looking for. It just happened squished at the end, even then you were still trying to figure out okay, what’s going on? And how are we going to settle this story?

Character Relationships

Now the character relationships were a little ambiguous to me. I was actually kind of confused. So the team of documentary, documentarians. Is that what it’s called? The people who are doing the documentary, there’s five of them. So you have Alice who’s the main character, then she has her best friend Tone. There’s Emmy, who is in kind of an estranged relationship with Alice, that we still haven’t quite figured out until pretty much the end. And then there’s Max, who, once again, he can’t really figure out like, is he friends with Alice? Is he her boyfriend? Like what is going on with this relationship? And then you have Robert, who I believe is dating Emmy.

So, Alice has a lot of resentment to Emmy for some reason that we don’t know until about halfway through. We do eventually find out that they were friends in college, and then their relationship just kind of fell apart due to depression and things, which I get. It’s really hard to keep relationships in situations like that. But some things happened. So they were very hurt. I think on both sides.

What was weird to me was you couldn’t really tell were Emmy and Alice friends or was Alice in love with her? Like, were they girlfriends at one point? It just, there was a lot of things that were hinted at even her jealousy that Emmy was with Robert, that sort of made me feel like there were some sexual tensions going on.

And then you get to the end, they’re like, Oh, we just used to be best friends. And I’m like, Okay, well, what was with all that because it definitely had vibes of more romantic than platonic relationship. But I guess that’s not what it was. I also couldn’t really get, yeah, between Alice and Max.

There were points where you couldn’t really tell if they were friends, or more until later in the book where there’s a random scene that basically serves as a way to separate people. Where Max, you know, kisses Alice, at not a great moment. And she’s like, “Whoa, what the heck is going on?” And he’s like, “Oh, I’ve loved you for seven years.” And she doesn’t feel that way about him, he gets mad, he storms off, and then obviously gets killed, because that’s what happens in these things.

But that was really the only time that we had like, some concrete idea of what their relationship was. Because it was so confusing to me. I just wish that everything was a little bit more clear from the get go. Because I felt like the real mystery was figuring out the relationships between all these people. Not what the heck is happening in this creepy town where everyone disappeared. That was a little odd.

Even her relationship with Tone. You knew they’re friends, but there was some. Yeah, there’s some mystery going on with that.

Issues with the Novel

There were some things that bothered me about this book. I really found the plot to be underwhelming. I thought it had this amazing premise, right, we get to see two perspectives and find out what happened in the past. What happened to this town? What would make an entire town disappear, and have stoned somebody to death? And why did they leave this baby? I mean, the mystery was so good that I mean, I think anyone would want to latch on and figure out what was going on with that.

And then we had the present, right? People like ourselves who are curious, who have emotional investments in this story, and they want to find out what happened. And while they’re there, a bunch of crazy stuff happens, including people being murdered. Oh, my gosh, like, how can you mess this up? Right, it just was so intriguing.

But yeah, I felt that the delivery was flat, as I said before, it took half of the book for things to really get going. And if your first half is just scene setting and having weird dynamics between the main characters. And you’re not really sure what’s going on, then I mean, it was really hard to push through to get to the point of like, you knew that something was going to happen. And so I just pushed through waiting for something to just build up and go so that I would want to finish the story.

And at a certain point, you just want to finish. Because, I wanted to find out how she was going to end it without skipping the whole thing. But it was just yeah, it was just disappointing. I didn’t feel that there was a lot of buildup in the present time for events that were happening. It was here some people it’s weird. They, you know, had some dangers, one person fell through the stairs. So she sprained her ankle. So we’ve got even more drama and things because we’ve got somebody who needs probably medical assistance by we can’t go get that because it’s going to ruin the project.

And then so that builds, you know, the tension even more. And then we start to get the footprints and the laughing and Oh, I think I saw somebody over here. But wait, I see them over there. So who’s creepily standing here, and it was just not enough? I don’t know. I just felt like it wasn’t enough that we had the past.

And this was the town they had a new priest come in. And he, you know, was a good looking man, and he entranced the members of the town. He created this cult like experience. And obviously, we all know where that leads to. He really seduced, especially the young women in this town, to follow him to really take what he said as gospel, which then led into these events.

This is an old mining town where they had just closed the mine. People were desperate. And this man, you know, came in and took advantage of the desperation of the townspeople. I get where that was going. And I can see the trajectory, it feels very lifelike to me that that is something that could most definitely happen. And to me, that was perfectly fine.

That conclusion, however, was getting a little crazy for me. And it just seemed to wrap up too nicely, which I’ll get into in a little bit. But one of the main things that really disappointed me with this novel, I think a lot of you can understand because it gets used so much. And it’s disappointing to see all the time. People with mental disorders or illnesses are used as plot devices to be seen negatively.

So we had one character, not the only one that’s had, you know, some problems, because Alice had depression. But, one of the characters, Tone, we don’t find out until it becomes convenient that she had a psychotic break down about a year ago. Not really sure what caused it, but whatever. She had anxiety, she kind of had a psychotic break. She had some hallucinations or delusions. She thought that she was hearing voices or that she was someone in the past. And she got on medication and it got cleared up. And that was that, right?

The person wasn’t violent. She didn’t harm anybody. As far as I know, she didn’t harm herself. She just had something happen to her. Well, so of course, in this novel, right, she disappears. She’s the one that sprained her ankle. So she may or may not be taking her anti-psychotic drugs, because she might be taking painkillers, and she can’t do both. So of course, conveniently, we all think that she is now the murderer. She’s the one that created this havoc. She is playing games with them, or just going plain crazy. And she’s now to the point of severe violence, even though this person has never had violent tendencies.

Even in the psychotic break, I just don’t, to me, it’s just a little lazy. Mental illnesses do not equate to violence. People who are struggling with things, which is a lot of people, by the way, it does not mean that they’re going to be violent and start murdering people. It doesn’t mean that they even, if they were hallucinating, are going to become violent. And I’m just so tired of seeing this.

Also, the fact that we didn’t even really know about it until it was convenient to bring it up, right. And then it was a secret to half the people. But I mean, like, it’s not even part of the characters development. It’s just there for the sake of driving the plot. And I don’t like it, it doesn’t do justice to the character. It doesn’t do justice to the plot. To me, it was just, we needed somebody to be the scapegoat. So let’s just use this as our way into it.

It’s also how the kissing scene again, was just basically thrown in there. There was really no indication about this. And you saw some are they or aren’t they between the relationship of Max and Alice. But, generally speaking, you didn’t see that he was pining over her, you didn’t see her wondering. So for them to just have this moment, again, it was just like really do we have to throw this in here?

We have to have this friend-zone problem, again, to only drive the plot so that he goes off on his own, and then we can continue on because we needed something to get them mad at each other in an already highly stressful situation. I just don’t like it. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, you guys, let me know how you feel about that kind of stuff. But to me, it just I’ve seen it too many times. I’ve read it too many times. And I just I wish that this book had been a little bit more inventive.

I feel like the plot was very predictable, the ending was predictable. And that the things that happened, it was just okay. Give me something new. And I think that’s where I got a little disappointed is because I really hoped that based on what the description was that it was going to be something cool and new. And it just didn’t end up that way.

Climactic Ending

So let’s talk about the ending of this novel. Horror novels are always really interesting, especially if they have a certain vibe. Because there’s, I mean, within the genre, there’s a whole bunch of, you know, ways that we go. So in this case, you definitely had that that question of is this supernatural? Or are these real beings creating these problems? And I think it’s a hard choice to make, right?

If it’s a supernatural ending, you can maybe go a little bit more crazy, and you don’t have to fully explain everything, and it just kind of works out because you know, ghosts and whatnot. We don’t know what they do. But if you go with the real people, this is reality, then you have to be a little bit more restrained and how you solve the problem.

And this one was just okay. I mean, you saw the setup from a mile away, and it is what it is. That’s okay. But to have someone go crazy. So she’s in her 20s, and Aina, who’s the great aunt or whatever. I mean, she gets seduced by the priest, and she somehow ends up not where the townspeople are, when they disappear. And she hears them, you know, and then basically festers in this craziness for 50 years. She lives in this town by herself and then goes on this killing rampage when these kids get here.

One, I mean, props the lady for figuring out how to survive for 50 years by herself. Like she had to have learned how to hunt and you know, get fresh water. And if she got injured or sick, she had to somehow take care of herself. Because there was literally no one around. This lady lived by herself, so I give her props for that. But she’s like at this point, What 70? Overpowering all these kids. Still crazy about something that happened that long ago?

You have to wonder like, at what point do you give up. Also kind of mad that she didn’t want to reach out to her sister, who was not in the town. So she had an outside contact. And you have to wonder like, why would you not have? Even if you thought maybe she didn’t believe in the same thing that you did? Why did you not reach out to her at any point during time? But crazy people do what they do, right? She was in her own world, quite literally.

Oh, boy. Just I don’t know. I think I wish that it was a supernatural problem. Like there were ghosts in this town. Right? It was built on something. And there were demons. And witches. I don’t know. I just think I wish that maybe they went with the supernatural route. Paranormal experiences. And maybe I would have liked the ending a little bit better. Because like everything else in this book, it just seemed a little underwhelming. Yeah, that’s pretty much my theme for this one.

Novel Conclusion

The ending to this novel was quite abrupt. So, you had the conclusion between the past and the present. We found out what happened to all townspeople. And then they were, I guess I didn’t say this, but they were in a cave. And they all got crushed by rocks. Cave in. So that’s where they disappear to, by the way. You have this, okay.

So we get the plot ending in the past. We know who the person is who’s involved in the murders and the destruction. And that filters through to present and our remaining surviving characters. It just kind of ends. Now we know that they’re going to be rescued within half a day, or a day. But I really would have liked to have something that kind of showed what happens in the after events of this.

And I don’t know if it’s fairly common, because I don’t read too much horror. Or if it usually just kind of ends at the end of the story. Like we, you know, we killed the killer. Yay, we’re gonna be rescued. And then it just ends at that calmness, that the ordeal is over.

But I felt that with this one, because the whole point was that they wanted to create this documentary. They wanted to solve this mystery that I’m sure many people probably wanted to also know. And this was her one big shot of doing it. And yes, tragedy occurred. But I kind of want to know what happened at the end after like, did they get help? Did they do the documentary, especially now that they really did know what happened? They had a lot more evidence to create a compelling story, and not to mention that they could bring in what they went through as part of it. But I just wanted a little bit more.

The epilogue was about Aina in the past and why she stayed. And that was her ending, but I just felt like it wasn’t the right way to go with it. I really wanted to know a little bit more, or maybe at least some after they get rescued. I don’t know. It just felt open ended. And I wanted a little bit more of a conclusion instead of just that sigh of relief that this experiences now over?

Outro

Well, that’s all that I have for this. Overall, I thought that The Lost Village, I think I rated it like two and a half. Three stars. It wasn’t bad. I think that a lot of people will enjoy this story. I think it’s gotten a lot of good praise as well. But to me, it really was, I think, I wanted more from it and it didn’t deliver.

And, I felt that it had a lot of tropes that I’m just I don’t want to see anymore. I wanted something new. This didn’t give me anything new. And I felt that it was predictable. And that kind of ruined it for me. That along with waiting for 150 pages to pass before anything even happened.

It just was an okay book for me. And you know, sometimes that’s what we come across. It doesn’t always have to be fantastic. As I said, I think that some people really enjoy this story and I think they’ll get out of it what they need to. But for me, it just wasn’t completely there.

Thank you so much for listening to my first episode and I hope that you enjoyed this discussion on The Lost Village by Camilla Sten. I will try to do more podcasts, hopefully every week, but I’m not gonna make any promises yet. But, if you want to find out more go ahead and visit my website, meltalksbooks.com and listen to this podcast. Subscribe, listen to it where you want. It’s on several different platforms and I hope to, you know, continue our conversations, continue reading different books, and sharing them with you. So that’s all I have for this week and until next time, bye.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai