Docile by KM Szpara
In the future, the majority of the population is so riddled in debt that they must sell themselves into indentured servitude for a term to work off their debt with years of service. The people who buy the debt? Trillionaires.
Elisa’s family is three million in debt—several lifetime’s accumulations that even his mother couldn’t erase with ten years as a Docile. But Elisha’s not going to end up like his mom, who still acts like a drone four years after her term. He’s going to be a Docile…without Dociline.
Alexander Bishop is the heir to the Bishop fortune and the developer of Dociline 3.0. After a nasty public break-up, his father forces him to take a Docile and the world what he’s made of. But Elisha publicly refuses Dociline, and Alexander takes matters into his own hands. He’s going to have the perfect Docile, no matter what.
This is a deeply uncomfortable book that is nevertheless incredibly addicting and mildly disappointing, as it didn’t make many of the connections I’d been hoping it would make.
There are so many parallels to American slavery and yet, despite existing in literally the same world, there were…no connections made? At least, none that I really saw? Same with the system of indentured servitude that existed for many years. The Docile system was combined into a gross resemblance of the two systems—Dociles had “rights” and terms of their sentence, but would be subjected to horrible invasions of their bodily privacy and would even “consent” to these invasions because they could not say no.
Additionally, the lack of connecting to slavery makes the book feel a little off altogether. As one reviewer noted—much more eloquently than I could ever put—”What if the stuff that already happens to marginalized folks happened to nice white people?” from Madison’s review.
Anywho, that was the stuff that made me a little annoyed. Plus the very last chapter, which literally eroded 99% of the character development in the back half of the story.
Despite myself, I was sucked into Elisha and Alex’s…relationship is not a word for what they were. Slave/Master relationship? Bad BDSM? Hurt with no comfort?
Because this is literally How to Brainwash Someone in 10 Simple Steps, complete with how to be a really awful dom. Emotional and physical abuse with hints of wtf is consent anyways and the results of systematic capitalism.
Alex succeeds in creating the perfect Docile, but unlike a happy drone on Dociline, Elisha was programmed like a dog to love the abuse, love whatever affection he could take and strive to mold into whatever Alex wanted—because he was a new version of himself, every day—to the point where he literally could not function without his master telling him what to eat, how to exercise, what to clean, what clothes to wear.
The change was slow, insidious and as unputdownable as the sex scenes (which were as hot as they were deeply disturbing).
And the change in Alex was more reprehensible, because while he grew up completely intrenched within this system of extreme prejudice, it’s not like he didn’t know the effects of Dociline and how the Docile system fucked up people in many, many ways. His two best friends were his Dociles as children (as children). He’s making the new drug, and views it as totally okay.
And then, of course, Alex gets the complete epiphany that he has done Elisha horrible, unsufferable damage, that he has taken a human and turned them into a puppet, eroding any and all sense of self and control. That he loves this person, and cannot love because he is the master, and the person cannot truly love him back because of 1) the power imbalance, 2) the system and 3) the brainwashing.
So over time there’s an epiphany that Alex undertakes, which is half-complete until really the end (and even then it’s only like 70%), that huh, maybe the Docile system is um, not good.
And Elisha slowly wakes up and comes out of it. He can work locks now. He can choose his clothes. He can say no. He can walk away.
And yet, that last chapter.
And the fact that the last half is literally a courtroom drama, which wasn’t bad but kinda dragged a little.
Definitely one to read, because it does bring up good points, it is a good story, and holy shit it’s addictive as hell.
Think of it as Law & Order: SVU with capitalism on steroids and bad BDSM and a trillionaire fauxmance.
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review