cover image Docile


K.M. Szpara., $27.99 (496p) ISBN 978-1-250-21615-1

Szpara’s disquieting and riveting debut raises pressing questions about power and consent amid plentiful kinky gay sex scenes. Set in a near-future America where pharmaceuticals are used to induce sexual submission, 21-year-old Elisha Wilder sells himself into sexual slavery as a Docile to erase his parents’ crushing debt. Alexander Bishop, 30-year-old heir to the fortune behind the memory-erasing, compliance-ensuring drug Dociline, buys Elisha for a life-term to prove to his family that he shares their values and is ruthless enough to head the company. But angry, defiant Elisha refuses to take Dociline, having witnessed the drug’s effects on his mother, and Alex resorts to harsh conditioning, sexual punishment, and force to make Elisha his submissive. As Elisha begins to cave under Alex’s training, their relationship evolves into something resembling a romance, baffling both Elisha’s family and Alex’s elite social circle. But when a former lover’s jealousy pushes Alex to take extreme action, the novel veers into a layered courtroom drama with plenty of surprises. Elisha’s rapid conversion to docile and Alex’s limited self-awareness, however, cloud this sharply written examination of consent. This queer dystopia is an arresting, disturbing, and ultimately satisfying challenge. (Mar.)