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Summary

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.

A Macmillan Audio production from Tor.com

©2020 K. M. Szpara (P)2020 Macmillan Audio

Critic reviews

"Don't call K.M. Szpara's Docile a dystopia. This book is something much stranger and yet closer to our own reality. Szpara has an amazing gift for immersing us in a world of exploitation and unbearable tenderness, and making it feel familiar and inescapable. Reading Docile changed me and left me with a new awareness of the structures of oppression that surround me. This book is an unforgettable story of human connection and the struggle to remain yourself in a world of debtors and creditors." (Charle Jane Anders)

"If you're not careful, this disturbing, sexy, disturbingly sexy book will infect your brain, and you'll start wondering whether its miserable world is very different from our own, and how much choice any of us really have in this capitalist hellscape where so many of our options are set at birth. And then you might want to do something about it." (Sam J. Miller)

"An unputdownable scifi dystopian erotica human rights masterpiece reminiscent of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty - but this time, the beauty fights back." (Delilah S. Dawson)

What listeners say about Docile

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Absolutely brilliant!

I was worried at first about the reviews but so glad I gave it a go! This was fabulous! Excellent writing, lovely story telling and an interesting way of talking about consent, capitalism and relationships. Would definitely recommend and Ill probably re-listen at some point. try it!

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Brilliantly Unique Story

Docile is unlike any book I've read before. A dual narrative following the story of Elisha Wilder as he tries to pay off his families debt by becoming the docile of Alex Bishop III, CEO of the company who made dociline, a medication used to sedate dociles and make their terms "easier". However, when Elisha refuses dociline, Alex must find other ways to ensure control. An interesting and encapsulating narrative on capitalism, consent and society. I couldn't stop listening to Docile, engaged completely in both of the characters journeys. Would strongly recommend reading!

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Not to my taste

Promising storyline but explicit gay sex scenes not to my taste. Couldn't finish the book.

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Unbelievable premise

Gave up. Storyline too weak for me SPOILER : Wealthy man buys a toy boy for 30 years, for millions. Why not employ someone or get a rental..you going to keep a 50 year old toy boy?

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  • Carey Sabala
  • 05-03-20

Definitely an interesting read

I was at San Diego Comic Con 2019 and sat in on a book publisher panel that couldn’t stop raving about two particular upcoming books, one has already been released and the other was a book by a new author called Docile and both were considered LGBTQ+ in the Sci-fi genre. Docile by K.M. Szpara was marketed as more Dystopian. As describe by an intern on twitter about Docile ("Dramatic Trillionaire Content. BDSM & then some more BDSM & then a lot more BDSM. Hurt/comfort & hurt/no comfort. Cinnamon roll of steel. The most scandalous kink: love. Courtroom drama, bedroom drama, Preakness drama. Debt & Decadence") - yep that’s it in a nutshell! So after reading/listening to Docile, if I was hard-pressed to give you reference material, I could say Docile is like Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins because of the dichotomy of the “have and have not” class struggle in a dystopian future and they dress very colorfully; but in this dystopia the rich have found a way to control the poor by raising the cost of living so much that you have pretty much no choice but to wipe your debt away by becoming a slave to someone wealthy and if you wish to forget everything you have to endure during your contracted time, everything from sex to manual labor, you can take a drug that puts you in a compliant memory haze called “Dociline”. And at the end of your contract, you will magically have forgotten what you did during that time and can resume your life, supposedly unharmed afterwards when the “Dociline” is out of your system. Yeah said no one ever. The author has a great way of showing the reader that there’s always two sides to a story. The rich people choose to see themselves as almost benevolent. They pay off someone’s debt and get a worker in return who won’t even remember their time as a slave. Whereas the poor see it as a penance for just existing. You live, you accumulate debt through life and in turn, you or someone you love will eventually become a slave of some sort. I could also say it’s like Tears Of Tess by Pepper Winters because of the obvious and classic slavefic genre. If you don’t know what “slavefic” is, it’s a fairly taboo sub-genre of fiction that is defined as: “Slavefic is a fanfiction genre in which one character is enslaved to another, or pretends to be a slave.” Or just Google but know that no matter the wrapper or the marketing, this is a classic slavefic M/M with a HFN ending. I was actually looking to see if there’s going to be a book two because although it technically wasn’t a cliffy, it did leave me with more questions than answers and I didn’t feel like it wasn’t as fully satisfying as it could have been. It almost felt rushed compared to the rest of the book. So, I guess what I’m having the biggest struggle with is how much I did love the writing by this new and unique author but I had some issues with pacing, plot holes and the finale. With that being said though, I found it completely engrossing, a fascinating world (although I have more questions than answers) and I really liked the audio book. The narrators did a fabulous job conveying the emotions, differences in characters and added to the overall flow. I really would love to revisit the world and see how the ending changed little old Maryland. *if you're curious, you can download the first 8 chapters for free from Amazon https://amzn.to/2PK71FS

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  • Casey
  • 05-07-20

Graphic, insightful & nuanced. Read review first!

Let’s get it out-of-the-way first, yes this book has MANY scenes of graphic male non-consensual gay sex/rape, so if that is not something you can read, move on immediately! The story is a highly topical and a chilling future vision of what capitalism, the medical industry, consent and the incredible selfishness I’ve seen in Americans, especially during this pandemic, could foretell. It's complex and propelled me at a rate of reading I haven’t experienced in months. I was invested in all the characters, even the ones with questionable or down right horrific motives. The world that is created is textured and the style of writing visceral (down to the descriptions of clothes, skin, environments). I haven't felt this immersed in a world in quite some time and I'd say one the books best attributes. As I listened to the audiobook, the narration is some of the best I’ve heard hands-down. The story is told from two POVs and two readers are used to voice the main characters. The voice actors were perfectly selected and really helped in conveying the characters physical and emotional attributes as well as the inherent power differentials. At first I was disarmed by one of the readers, when this happens I find that after finishing the book I realize this is a sign that Im going to love it. This really added texture to the book that I wasn't expecting and I was constantly excited to hear the voices change. I find it hard to find LGBTQ science fiction books that are written with subtly and nuance and that focus on world building as well as character development (what I want from sci-fi). I put this book on par with the excitement I feel for TJ Klune or Becky Chambers books where character development is everything but the world that is built is highly realized and transporting. This book is graphic, but very insightful and nuanced and the point of the highly sexualized environment is the ultimate storytelling device and is not just for titillation, although there is some of that too. I cannot recommend it highly enough if the subject matter and themes interest you and you can deal with or are interested in the graphic sexual nature of the book. I did however have one issue: I found the way people of color were constantly called out as "black" when describing characters very odd. This was not done for apparently Asian characters (last names being typical of Asian decent) or white characters. I found this very perplexing and questionable. I’m unsure of the motives for calling this out more than a couple of times in the book. I'm trying to be more sensitive in this arena, and not someone who was normally looking for issues, so it was very obvious for me to have noticed this. Hopefully the author will hear the comments about this and amend this book as it would be a shame to an otherwise excellent story.

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  • Yvonne den Besten
  • 27-05-20

Not one I'll read again

Ok, Let me be honest here and not claim that I bought this book for any kind of elevated reason. I read somewhere that this was "50 shades done right" and I was intrigued. This is about a future society where peope amass great quantities of debt very easily. And poeple who rack up too much debt get thrown in prison. There is one way to pay off debt "easily', and that is to sell yourself into servitude to a wealthy patron'. But then, they own you and can make you do whatever they want. To make this a little more palatable. people can take a drug called Dociline, that will take your memories away, and will make you more compliant. After you stop taking it the effects will wear off after two weeks that's the party line anyway. We follow Elisha, a young man, who decides to sell off his family''s debt, but since his mother got back after her term, she never was herself again, and he is determined never to take Dociline. Alex, the man who buys him, doesn't know this at first, but he's under so much pressure of his own, because his family made Dociline, and he decides the only way to make the good impression his dad wants of him is to break Elishia's will.. And you see the beginning of that procress happen in this book. It was difficult to read about, but that's not the problem I had with this book. It was very black and white in my opinion, everything wrapped up much too easily, and the story stopped when things got really interesting. The bigger picture never got resolved I also think things between Elisha and Alex never came to a head, I kind of wanted one really explosive scene between them I really liked Elisha reclaiming himself as a person and the dynamics with his family. I just kind of hate Alex and his asinine worldviews. For such an educated person it really seemed like he never learned to question anything. And he grew a backbone way too late in this story. Despite that, this book really kept my interest, but I don't feel this book had a profound message to teach me, and I don't know if I would recommend it to anyone. And while I wouldn't necessarily call the 50 shades trilogy good books, heck I never even finished the third one, I still enjoyed/ liked them better than I did this The narration was fine, but I think Alex was overly shout-y, and I also think Elisha sounded whin, but that can just be because he's younger and a lot less confident as Alex' character is

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  • Unquietly Me
  • 09-05-20

Best book I’ve read/listened to in 2020 so far

The more I think about this book the more I don’t know what to think about it. At the same time, I have so many thoughts about this book I don’t know how to express all those thoughts without writing a whole essay, because this is the kind of book that I believe asks for critical thinking and analysis to get a solid understanding of what it’s saying and what it means. I can say for certain though that this is the best book I’ve read/listened to in 2020 so far. Unfortunately, I’ve only read 13 due to Covid making it hard for me to concentrate and sleep. I can also say that this book made me cry a lot and feel a lot of things. I can’t say it gave me “all the feels,” because I didn’t feel the happiness and elation a romance novel would produce. But I loved how this book made me feel big emotions and think about it days after I’d finished reading it. I liked the ambiguous ending. I don’t know if Alex or Elisha should be together, but I do think Alex won’t ever hurt Elisha again. I think Elisha should take as much time as he needs to be a full human being and fully self-aware. What he went through was so sad and heartbreaking, yet I also felt Alex’s angst. I do understand how trapped Alex felt, but I hated how Elisha had to suffer because of Alex’s cowardice. So, yeah, I think Alex was a coward. He was addicted to his privilege and afraid of his father. In the end, he may have stood up and fought for Elisha, freeing himself at the same time. It was a win-win for him. He wasn’t impoverished and he wasn’t “imprisoned” or institutionalized. He may have lost his job, but it wasn’t the end of the world for him. I kinda hated that his voice was stronger than Elisha’s in the end, that he got the last word, because it meant that Elisha wasn’t completely free and wasn’t completely able to speak for himself. But I think that was the author’s point. I really liked the freedom and joy Elisha felt when he was with Onyx and their uncomplicated friendship, though their relationship began in such a disturbing setting. This book contained moral ambiguity in a horrifyingly one-dimensional, regimented world. I feel so sad for Elisha, what happened to him and how he became, and hope he does regain complete self-autonomy and agency. The author did such a good job communicating what Elisha and Alex went through and how they felt that I couldn’t help but sympathize with both of them. This book is like a horror story in some ways and could perhaps provide a lens through which we can view our own world and circumstances especially here in the United States during Covid. Where some Americans are forced to work in unsafe and life-threatening conditions just to survive, while others on the frontline are working in unsafe conditions due to poor public policy and a corrupt administration, whose only goal is to win re-election, stay in power, and enrich themselves, their donors, and their cronies. Finally, I have to say, the audiobook narration completely sold the story to me and bumped my review up to 5 stars.

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  • Adam bellinger
  • 07-05-20

Not too shabby! Would recommend.

This was a good book. However, I’m really pissed at the missed opportunity to call this book fifty shades of gay.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 14-03-20

More than it seems

An interesting exploration of consent and capitalism, and not to be dismissed at first glance. It explores many different things (abusive relationships, the exploitation and dehumanization of the poor, recovery and more) in away that seems meant to draw in people who maybe normally wouldn’t think too much about it. Even the sex scenes are written in such away that one is completely there with the main characters and his emotions about it, be they confusion/conflicting, disgust and fear, or playful confidence and comfort with a friend. A hugely relevant book for this age and an important reflection on today’s America. Not just a porno nor a piece of watt pad self inserted fanfic, though easily dismissed as such on first glance. Please don’t dismiss it.

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  • danielle
  • 19-08-20

Dystopian so......Be prepared to be uncomfortable/horrified

At about three hours in I definitely appreciate the trigger warnings. Absolutely feel guiltless if you want Alex, his family, and his friends to die in a fire. The conditions of slavery are stark, this is not a romantic setting. It is insidious and bleak. Beautifully narrated from dual POV’s but crammed with a society of villains. Elisha exists as a flickering flame in the backdrop of unrepentant oppression. Alex’s flailing attempts to fully dehumanize Elisha is...uncomfortable. A history of oppression, false superiority, and moral platitudes that are still used as excuses to dismiss the impoverished to this day. The early on horror is that Alex is bent on building a better mousetrap to kill free will permanently. I have read reviews that compare this to the hunger games but I would consider this to be a very twisted version of “My Fair Lady”. The revelations, rebellions, and eventual revolution do not reverse the world. I approve of this subtlety because a dystopian world should not be fixed by definition. The world’s faults can be defined and accentuated but never solved.

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  • Natan
  • 06-07-20

shallow, not worth your time

the tagline of 'there is no consent under capitalism' made me think this was going to be an actual in depth criticism of capitalism but instead this book is just a extremely bland, trashy, ooc fanfic. if you imagine that the worst fanfic you have ever read got published by a legitimate publisher and reviewed as 'a challenging tour de force' then you can have the experiencing of listening to this book and waste zero hours of your time/money.

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  • Brittany Dorkin
  • 21-06-20

all over the place

the book went from a dystopia to a steamy romance to talks of consent. it's a rollercoaster.

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  • Elain
  • 13-06-20

Not sure about this one.

The first third of this book kept reminding me of Rieko Yoshihara's "The Spaces Between". But, strangely enough the characters in her twisted world of forbidden emotions are much more alive. The punishments are immediate and brutal, and when rape happens, noone is left to doubt it. And still practically everyone manages to stay themselves and constantly break the rules. Here, I found the quick disintegration of Elisha's personality almost unbelievable. I guess, the story demanded it, but still... Without the catchphrase "there is no consent under capitalism" I would not have guessed this book was about capitalism. Though it definitely raises interesting questions about freedom of choice in any relationship and it is an engrossing read.