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Ecstasia by Francesca Lia Block

Ecstasia (1993)

by Francesca Lia Block

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Elysia (1)

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Ecstasia is a unique, beautiful book. Unlike Block's other works, the story takes place on a secondary world - there is the desert, where people toil and grow old and weatherbeaten and there is the magical city, Elysia. In Elysia everyone is beautiful - they eat sugar, dress in colourful costumes, go to carnivals and are served by mechanical dolls. But in Elysia there is such a prejudice against age that adults feel the constant pressure to stay young and beautiful - or else they wrap themselves in a shroud and head Underneath to the dark tunnels of Under where they wait for death.

Rafe is a drummer in a band called "Ecstasia" with his sister, Calliope, a girl with magic visions, and her alchoholic boyfriend, Dionisio and their lead singer, Paul - a cold, intense man with scars on his face who is in love with Rafe. But Rafe is in love with a delicate, ill-looking girl named Lily whom he spies walking the tight-rope at the carnival in a mirrored skirt, carrying a parasol with pink flowers in her hair. Lily has a problem, though - she's addicted to Orpheus, a drug that can bring back the dead in the mind of the user.

Ecstasia is a magical story with sparkling imagery and a world that ties into Greek mythology. A delightful, unique book. The ending was abrupt though and sort of too easy and the poetry scattered throughout the book (the band's song lyrics) were somewhat hit-and-miss. Lovely little book though. Enchanting. ( )
  catfantastic | May 8, 2012 |
Ecstasia is the name of the band that Calliope, her brother Rafe, her lover Dionisio, and her friend Paul have formed. They live in the city of Elysia, where life is a non-stop fantasy, but when you grow old you go to underground to die. Calliope and Rafe's mother and father both went under while the two were young, but Calliope has visions that bring her and her brother to explore the land below.
I loved the way Block combined elements of Greek Mythology with a sort of steam-punk, futuristic backdrop. The main characters seem to vaguely represent certain characters from Mythology, as well as the city of Elysia and it's counterpart, Under. The imagery from the book was very real, yet also hazy and confused at times, as if the lights and sounds of the city were getting in the way of what was really there. I loved the otherwordly feel of her descriptions, mixed with the poetry of the songs the band played. There is a lot going on in this book, and I definitely read it slowly to try to pick up on all the hints and references Block was making. ( )
1 vote MillieHennessy | Mar 18, 2011 |
Ecstasia is a young adult, dystopian novel with metaphorical images of Greek mythology. Block's lyrical writing style comprises this story following four friends in the carnival city of Elysia. Siblings Calliope and Rafe were brought to Elysia by their parents, who have since gone Under because they aged. Calliope has visions that take her Under to see her mother. Rafe follows and finds the Doctor - a man who creates potions to bring back the dead and to fight age. Calliope, Rafe and their friends need to fight the pull of Under and the glittery addictions of Elysia.

I enjoyed Block's writing style in her other books. Ecstasia was difficult to follow as it is comprised of visions, dreams, poems, and both first & third narrative. Nothing is quite as it seems and the story is one big metaphor to try to wrap your mind around. To truly understand the book, I think I would need to go back for multiple rereads. ( )
  jayde1599 | Nov 11, 2010 |
Defies description (although not to the extent that 'Weetzie Bat' did) - except that it does include some very bad poetry. I may be disappointed because, having read the sequel before I read this, I was hoping for some gay interest and there really wasn’t any. Huh. ( )
  phoebesmum | Mar 13, 2010 |
Elysia is a city that is a carnival of light, sparkle, shimmer and joy. Sweet candy, hot house flowers, music, bars, clubs, circuses and carousels all make up this fun house city of youth and excitement. But, to stay in it you must pay the price. Only the young may stay above, when you grow old you go Under, to a labyrinth of dark tunnels and shadowy places of quiet, dark desperation, wrapped up in linen awaiting your death. In this beautiful city Calliope is a girl that has visions of the future and plays the piano. Rafe is her brother, an impulsive boy that plays the drums. They join a band called Ecstasia with a boy named Paul that writes poetic songs and sings while another boy named Dionisio, Calliope’s lover, plays guitar when he’s not drinking himself into a stupor.

They all want beauty and youth and gardens. They want what Elysia has to offer, but they want it real. They want real flowers that grow out of the earth, natural rain that isn’t poisoned, beauty that isn’t painted on. Will they ever find their garden of eternity? And, just what does that mean exactly?

Ecstasia is a beautiful poetic novel that tells it's story through the vehicles of poem and song, visions and dreams, third person and first person narratives, flowing from one story telling device to another as the tale unfolds. The book is full of metaphor, allusion and interpretation and to really help you get it you need to know quite a bit about Greek mythology to understand all of the references and to really help you follow everything that is going on. Just when you think you have it all figured out, something else hits you and you have to sit back and re-evaluate the message that is being given. Everything is a metaphor for something else, resulting in a novel which illuminates a social commentary on our modern day society.

I love Francesca Lia Block's writing and always have. Her words are just so poetic, so lyrical, and her descriptions so apt, interesting and thought provoking that you just savor every word and every sentence. Her metaphors and allegories weave the story together and the characters, the scenery, the dialog, everything just seems to sparkle.

Because it so open to interpretation, different people will probably get different things out of this book. But, some of the main themes are love and acceptance, the illusions of eternal youth and eternal life, the folly of merely chasing dreams and the hard truth of working to realize them. Don't go someplace to have magical things happen to you, make your own magic happen yourself.

As for the rest, you'll have to read to find out!

And, yes, this is the first half of a two book story. The sequel is Primavera.

Favorite Quote:
The circus tent was flowing pale in the rain like a fleshy flower lit from within. It seemed to bloom in the downpour. Drops of rain caught on Rafe's eyelashes, blinding him as the circus light struck them. He groped for the flap, that slit in the fabric that would reveal her to him.
She was on the rope again, her skirt flashing with tiny mirrors, hair braided with petals. He looked up at her, dizzy with it, seeing her face framed in the parasol. There were bluish shadows around her eyes. ( )
1 vote exlibrisbitsy | Mar 6, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Francesca Lia Blockprimary authorall editionscalculated
Odom, MelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my brother, Greg Marx; my friend, Geoffrey Grisham; my editor, Christopher Schelling; and Fred Drake, who makes the Desert bloom
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The girl is floating above.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142400378, Paperback)

Siblings Calliope and Rafe, along with Dionisio and Paul, are Ecstasia—the most popular band in Elysia, a city of jewels and feathers, of magic and music, where the only crime is growing old. Then Calliope’s visions take her to Under, where the Old Ones go to die, and where her parents had vanished long ago. Rafe joins her there, in search of the Doctor, who can bring back the dead to ease their loved ones’ broken hearts. And that is when rapture turns to nightmare.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:02 -0400)

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