I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Tor Publishing on March 3, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Hard Science Fiction, LGBT, Gay
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K. M. Szpara's Docile is a science fiction parable about love and sex, wealth and debt, abuse and power, a challenging tour de force that at turns seduces and startles.
There is no consent under capitalism.
To be a Docile is to be kept, body and soul, for the uses of the owner of your contract. To be a Docile is to forget, to disappear, to hide inside your body from the horrors of your service. To be a Docile is to sell yourself to pay your parents' debts and buy your children's future.
Elisha Wilder’s family has been ruined by debt, handed down to them from previous generations. His mother never recovered from the Dociline she took during her term as a Docile, so when Elisha decides to try and erase the family’s debt himself, he swears he will never take the drug that took his mother from him.
Too bad his contract has been purchased by Alexander Bishop III, whose ultra-rich family is the brains (and money) behind Dociline and the entire Office of Debt Resolution. When Elisha refuses Dociline, Alex refuses to believe that his family’s crowning achievement could have any negative side effects—and is determined to turn Elisha into the perfect Docile without it.
Content warning: Docile contains forthright depictions and discussions of rape and sexual abuse.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
Wow, if Docile has afforded me one thing – its that I am eternally grateful for how my life is (even with the current health crisis.) Docile has nailed it home just how easily the world and humanity can sink into the depths of depravity and self-indulgent when capitalism rules with an iron fist. It is a stark reminder of just what I don’t want life to be like. If you’ve ever wondered what life would be like if you were able to do as you wished, then read Docile – it’s a shocking portrayal of the rich getting richer and the poor becoming more objectified and more desperate.
The novel tackles many themes through many different objective angles. A dystopian Maryland. Bankruptcy. Generational debt. Social gaps becoming colossal. Contractual partnerships. Questionable medication. Beware a medication that turns you into a docile quite literally. It might all seem like a comfortable life so long as you can get on board with the idea that you are allowing your partner (more like an owner) to do with you as you wish. Everything is controlled from your diet to your exercise regime to the way you wear your hair. With wealth beguiles power and with poverty relents every freedom you ever had.
Elisha Wilder’s family have crippling debt – think in the millions. There is no tangible way out…but one. Elisha volunteers to enrol in the docile programme to protect his sister from that fate. He knows that his life as he knew it was over but never in his wildest imagination did, he think that Alex Bishop III of Bishop Laboratories would choose him as a partner. The very same family that developed the Dociline formula. The formula that makes a wilful and independent individual into a compliant docile – one that will happily do as they are told without complaint or hesitation. Just as Elisha didn’t expect being partnered with Alex, Alex also didn’t expect what he got in meek Elisha.
Docile is seriously creepy and darker than a black hole. K.M. Szpara has erected a winding staircase of deceit. Just when we think we have gotten to grips with the events that take place, the stairs change shape and we collapse. It trips us up, leaves us postrate and pleading for help. He seems to take pleasure in blindfolding the reader and leading them down a winding maze – our senses are on high alert. Our sensibilities for knowing what is morally reprehensible in a modern society left me deeply unseated and I was very uncomfortable reading certain scenes. Let’s make it clear – you are MEANT to be uncomfortable – this isn’t a lovely visit with your grandmother this is akin to be smacked around the head until you forget which way is up and, in this case,, who knows?
There is a serious rape scene that is disturbing but paramount to the story. It could trigger certain emotions in some readers so just to be wary of it. The book is very hot is one of the best representations of LGBTQ+ that I have had the pleasure of reading. It has achieved more in this book than I have experienced in all the LGBTQ+ books I’ve read. It doesn’t fade into the background, it is strikingly brilliant, I have never read anything like it, and I think I might be hard pushed to find anything again like it.
Docile brings to the table a new formula for dystopian fiction. An immersive storyline takes the old and makes it new. K.M. Szpara takes character development and uses it to enrich the worldbuilding. A breath of fresh air in a well-worn genre!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
K.M. Szpara is a queer and trans author who lives in Baltimore, MD, with a tiny dog. Kellan always has a good manicure, likes whiskey cocktails, and thinks pants are overrated. His debut alt-/near-future novel, DOCILE (March 3, 2020; Tor.com Publishing), explores the snowballing debt crisis, consent, and privilege, and can be described as “really gay”.
His novelette, “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time,” was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards and Long-Listed for the Tiptree. Like Kellan, the protagonist is a gay trans man. Unlike Kellan, he’s bitten by a Daddy vampire with an Ikea fetish. More of Kellan’s fiction can be found in venues such as Uncanny, Lightspeed, and Shimmer. So far, all of it contains sex, which he insists is both about feelings, characters and social dynamics, but also, definitely, butts.
Kellan has a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, which he totally uses at his day job as a paralegal. He is a graduate of the Viable Paradise workshop and the editor of Transcendent: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculate Fiction (Lethe Press), which received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. You can find him socializing into the night at literary conventions, chatting in two hundred eighty characters or fewer on Twitter at @KMSzpara, or in print as K.M. Szpara.
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