In K.M. Szpara's first novel, Docile, debt passes to the next-of-kin upon the bearer's death, which has far-reaching effects on family structure and personal freedom. The book is deeply disturbing, intentionally so. Elisha signs a contract to sell his family's debt, in exchange for which he will become a Docile, serving Alex, new Bishop Labs CEO and grandson of the woman who invented Dociline--a drug that renders a person pliant, unaware and incapable of making their own decisions. Invoking one of the Seven Rights given to Dociles, Elisha refuses the medication and without it, Alex trains Elisha in obedience with a variety of punishments and praise.
It's immediately clear why nearly all Dociles choose to take Dociline. To be a Docile is to cease to be a person, with or without the soothing effect of the drug. Patrons in Alex's circle share, humiliate and rape their Dociles at social functions and relegate them to the background at all other times. After all, Dociles consent when they sign their contracts. As the only Docile aware of what's going on around him, Elisha has a front-row seat to the dehumanization of a huge swath of the population. In his point-of-view chapters, Alex struggles to control Elisha through behavior modification in order to keep his position in his family and business. Elisha's thoughts change as he bends and breaks under Alex's power, turning from suppressed anger to something far more sinister--eager compliance.
As powerful as it is plausible, Docile is a parable about consent, twisted love and challenging systemic abuse. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels