I received an uncorrected proof copy of Docile in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank K. M. Szpara and Tor for the opportunity.
Docile is the story of Elisha. He is a young gentleman who volunteers to become a Docile to pay off his parents’ debt which is at a catastrophic amount of £3,000,000. If he had not proposed this then his mother and father would have been placed in debtors prison. A docile is essentially a slave. They become the property of the patron who pays off their debt in exchange for a set time of service. For the £3,000,000 to be cleared Elisha is to be the property of his patron for life. Most individuals who are forced into this life of slavery tend to take a drug called Dociline. It’s a drug to make the dociles obedient. It leads them to have the charisma of a robot or a zombie yet most beneficial for the takers is that they don’t really know what horrible tasks, duties or punishments are being forced upon them. It is a brainwashing drug. Elisha, having witnessed the effects of Dociline on his mother vows to refuse to take the drug, which is one of his rights. He will be completely aware of what happens to him during his time as a docile which, of course, is for the rest of his life and may not be very pleasant.
In addition to Elisha’s first-person point of view perspective, we also follow the trillionaire Dr. Alex Bishop who becomes Elisha’s patron in the first-person too. Alex is the CEO of the company that creates Dociline and wanted Elisha to be his guinea pig for a new version he is hoping to release to market. When Elisha refuses to accept the drug, as is his right, Alex is frustrated yet decides to mould him as he wishes as he owns him for life and can do with him anything he wishes… and I mean anything.
This is a queer dystopian novel that is sometimes uncomfortable to read, extremely graphic in nature, is thrilling, beautifully written and yet is often a mind-fuck and has quite a few trigger warnings to discuss. Although other reviewers have referred to this as science fiction, it never really came across that way to me as what is presented is far too close to our current reality. Some of what happens here is not that farfetched when analysing where the human race could be heading in the near future. Docile features BDSM, explicit gay and group sex scenes, torture and punishments, suicide attempts, and rape scenes sometimes from the first person point of view of the rapist. At this point, Elisha is a piece of meat that Alex uses whenever he fancies. It also presents love, friendship, family, and how people change, especially the two main characters over the length of the narrative.
Although it’s often uncomfortable to read and is probably the first novel I’ve read that has incorporated gay sex scenes that were this explicit and detailed I have to admit that Docile is a masterpiece of dystopian fiction. I’m pretty certain that I’ve read nothing like it. It was engaging and I completely lost myself in the narrative. It made me question our reality, the gravity of debt, my sexuality occasionally, and however horrid some of the actions committed by Alex were, I never really hated him. If anything I often felt sorry for him which shows Szpara’s talent to make me care about someone who I should have straight away written off as an utter bastard. It took me three days to read these 500 or so pages and the finale of this standalone novel is actually nice and fitting which was a surprise after many of the nightmare segments throughout. Docile is an exquisite, well-written and often uncomfortable mindfuck of a debut release. I’ll be following Szpara’s career closely. Recommended.