This book was kinda trash.
Now look–I love a good trashy book. Y’all have seen my no-bodice-left-unripped romance novel reviews. A little bit of junk food never hurt anybody, and the same goes for books.
But this book is not Twinkies, Takis and giant sour pickles. This book is mystery Starbursts, plain Tostitos and those chalky pastel sugar wafers that come in a twisty plastic sleeve.
In other words, it’s neither good for you or particularly enjoyable. Ostensibly, it’s a parable about consent and capitalism, highlighting how the drive to commodify oneself can warp personal sexual agency. Young Elisha lives in futuristic Baltimore, where debt is criminalized and people sell themselves into drugged, indentured servitude to avoid prison. The servants, called Dociles, are sometimes deeply damaged by the drug used to ensure compliance–so when Elisha sells himself to the highest bidder, he refuses to take it, and is very aware of the things his handsome new owner does to break him into a perfect companion.
Imagining chattel slavery as a sexy fun brand-named time is the whitest, most American thing ever and that ruins any points this book tries to make. I get that there are attempts to interrogate capitalist greed, healing from trauma, and nuances around consent issues here. They don’t work because intersectionality is ignored in order to shoehorn allegory into a bargain basement slavefic that repeatedly tries to make assault erotic.
Riddle me this, fellow readers–how exactly is it that this 5-minutes-into-the-future Baltimore seems to have completely eradicated racism yet still BROUGHT BACK SLAVERY?! And everyone’s okay with it, even the (numerous, over-described, hey-look-we-are-the-diversity) Black characters? How has homophobia become passé but coercion, grooming, and domestic assault totally ok? These critiques get handwaved because the author is queer and trans but trans people aren’t exempt from being racist and problematic just like Black folks aren’t immune to becoming transphobes.
There’s a lot of “sex” scenes that are really rape, a romance that is actually severe Stockholm syndrome, and a lot of pages devoted to the rich slaveowner tearfully realizing that maybe the slaves on mind controlling substances don’t really want to be his friends, so he should probably stop making drugs.
Yuck, man. 1 star and a psychotherapist to Docile.
(Yeah, give this one a miss, beautiful people. Or not–I can’t tell you what to do. If you want to find it, check out the links in the post, but be aware, this blog has affiliate relationships and any purchases you make at links you visit from here may result in a commission being paid. If you want to check out some other diverse speculative fiction without all the abuse and tone deafness, click HERE.)