Eli's Reviews > Docile

Docile by K.M. Szpara
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it was ok

My general opinion of Docile by K.M. Szpara is that it was fine.

The writing was beyond excellent, lots of delicious word pictures. The indulgent decadence of the upper-class, the fine layers of dust over everything else, the quiet horror of a terrible system, the lush descriptions of this Maryland society. Love that for this book!

Docile wants me to take it seriously, so let me a downer for a few paragraphs.

Perhaps the real lesson of Docile is of tempering expectations. The hype around it, that gorgeous tagline, I was expecting something very different from what I got. I waited for this book to pop the fuck off, to shred itself to pieces, to point a finger at me before punching me in the gut. Instead, it existed in a very specific set of tropes, of narrative beats, and rarely veered off-course. If you’ve ever read more than one slavefic, you know the drill. Obviously, I knew to expect the tropes this book included, but I wish it leaned more into its other concepts. It has a lot going on in regards to ethics of labor, consent (obviously), capitalism, all that good shit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t dig exceptionally deep and rarely frames itself on a larger scale.

The world-building leaves a lot out, which creates a necessity to suspend your belief on…many, many things. For example: (view spoiler) Furthermore, the reinstatement of slavery is contained to Maryland, and I’m wondering how the rest of the country and the world responded. If there was a response at all. There’s a substantial amount of logistical hand-waving, which is totally fine, but not what I was expecting from such an involved idea. A pretty big part of the plot is Elisha’s mother’s experience with Dociline, and, again, it’s difficult to believe that no one else tried to report or punish those responsible.

Also, I totally get that Docile is a sci-fi parable, but I couldn’t help consider current conversations on sex work and consent and drug use/addiction and money and SLAVERY. Do the Black people in this universe have no feelings about this at all? There are zero mentions of any form of sex work in this world, which…does it exist?


Elisha and Alex aren’t the most compelling of narrators. I obviously sympathized with Elisha and rooted for him, but there was never a spark I connected to with either of them. Their development is also fairly predictable. (view spoiler) There are several side characters who add different perspectives to the story and, frankly, I enjoyed the women so much more than the men. I was incredibly turned off by one side character, though. (view spoiler)

I wanted Docile to go deeper. It landed on as horny on main with a vague conscience. There aren't really any consequences for wrongdoings. (view spoiler)

Ultimately, I was of two minds. It was enjoyable for me! It was fine! If you like slavefic and the tropes it contains (rape, dubious consent, Feelings, Angst, picking out clothes, etc.) then you might like Docile. If you’ve never encountered these tropes, because they’re EXTREMELY THERE, or you’re expecting the narrative to do some serious dismantling, you might go elsewhere. Docile is for readers with very specific tastes.

Edit (10/20/19):

This little prickly thought has really been on my mind since I wrote this review, and I just have to talk it out.

If a white author uses slavery as a focal point of their book's plot, a plot that revolves around dismantling capitalism and consent in AMERICA, there needs to be a serious interrogation of like...context, history, trauma on the bodies of BIPOC. It was like slavery and racism never existed in Docile and that continues to bother me! It's bothersome to have two white narrators as the lenses through which we see the horrors of slavery, because UH...all of these things happened to BIPOC!

I get the heady, sexy, sharp appeal of Docile, I do, that's why I requested an ARC in the first place and I'm not trying to take the moral high ground on slavefic because that's a whole thing. But y'all...this book did not push hard enough into what it wants to be for me to push aside what it's left out.
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Reading Progress

September 8, 2019 – Shelved
September 8, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
September 20, 2019 – Started Reading
September 23, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Judah_Slater Agree. This is a bad book

Chinyere Ezie 100 percent agree. Telling this story without acknowledging or centering race or chattel slavery was confusing, unhelpful, and harmed the world building—making it feel more like a queer version of pretty woman than an honest to goodness dystopian story

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