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All booksSci-fiGolden State
Golden State by Ben H. Winters

Golden State

by Ben H. Winters

Quick take

In a near future California where lying is the greatest crime of all, a troubled cop is sworn to protect the truth—no matter the consequences.

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Why I love it

Liberty Hardy
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The future is no place for liars in this Orwellian thriller about surveillance and secrets. So when I got my hands on Golden State I was thrilled. A wildly imaginative tale of a future California where citizens are subject to constant scrutiny, and lying is the most serious offense a person can commit? Yikes—and count me in.

Laszlo Ratesic is a skilled member of the Speculative Service, a special branch of the Golden State government that employs a select few who can sense when lies are being told. Like, their spidey senses actually tingle when someone isn’t being truthful (!), allowing them to seek out and punish liars. So when the people who make the rules start breaking the rules, it’s up to Laszlo and his fellow Service members to fight back against corruption and bring truth to the people—so long as they can figure out who to trust.

This book is so inventive and the writing so believable that I got goosebumps imagining a world where no one could lie. I mean, no white lies, no false advertising, no lying with good intentions ... who wouldn’t go to jail??? This is a top-notch story with serious Margaret Atwood vibes, and I can’t wait for people to put themselves in Ben Winters’s imagination!

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Lazlo Ratesic is 54, a 19-year veteran of the Speculative Service, from a family of law enforcement and in a strange alternate society that values law and truth above all else. This is how Laz must, by law, introduce himself, lest he fail to disclose his true purpose or nature, and by doing so, be guilty of a lie.

Laz is a resident of the Golden State, a nation resembling California, where like-minded Americans retreated after the erosion of truth and the spread of lies made public life, and governance, increasingly impossible. There, surrounded by the high walls of compulsory truth-telling, knowingly contradicting the truth—the Objectively So—is the greatest possible crime. Stopping those crimes, punishing them, is Laz's job. In its service, he is one of the few individuals permitted to harbor untruths—to "speculate" on what might have happened in the commission of a crime.

But the Golden State is far less a paradise than its name might suggest. To monitor, verify, and enforce the Objectively So requires a veritable panopticon of surveillance, recording, and record-keeping. And when those in control of the truth twist it for nefarious means, the Speculators may be the only ones with the power to fight back.

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Get an early look from the first pages of Golden State.

Member thoughts

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All (3384)
Love (718)
Like (1846)
Dislike (820)
3590 ratings
  • 20% Love
  • 51% Like
  • 23% Dislike
  • Lexington, MA

    California is the “Golden State”. Highly regimented with no room for untruths. As a fan of police work and law, I loved this fresh take on a society somewhere between utopia and dystopia. Crazy world!

  • Glendale, AZ

    Fantastic! Kept me guessing, couldn’t put it down. The premise felt fresh, but with hints of Orwell’s 1984 and a dash of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Thought-provoking and timely, highly recommend!

  • West Townsend, MA

    This book starts out a little bit slow as you have to adjust your parameters to the world the characters inhabit. As it unfolds it really makes you appreciate the ability to create a whole new reality


    Golden State paints a picture of a falsehood-free society. I enjoyed this book, and I will read it again. My husband was convinced to read it after watching me laugh, cry, and gasp my way through it!

  • Philadelphia, PA

    Wow did this book have me grasping at the edges of the pages desperate to get to ending. I absolutely loved the thrill ride this book had to offer. Multilayered smart critical this book was the dream.

  • King George, VA

    At first the books seems like a typical utopian society but throughout the book there are many twists and turns. Once you think you figured it out there is another plot twist. Definitely a good read.

  • Foley, AL

    I LOVE dystopian novels, and this one contains a bit of a twist that is assumed throughout the book but not stated until the end. So it's not a total mindF*** but it fits nicely into the story overall

  • Absecon, NJ

    The beginning of this book made me hate the main character, but as you read you seriously get pulled in and realize how screwed up/twisted everything is! Such a good book with a crazy surprise ending!

  • Los Angeles, CA

    I absolutely loved the world-building here; I thought Winters' writing was so sharp and smart and interesting and I really enjoyed this high-concept plot, especially in the current political climate.

  • Charlotte, NC

    What if everyone knew the truth? A smart book about the webs we weave when we lie. Surely, if no one lies everyone can be trusted, right? Don't speculate, know the truth, and watch out for spiders...

  • Ogden, UT

    There were a few characters that were hard to keep track of, and a few connections throughout the book that took some detective work. That said, I loved the plot and the twists. Left me wanting more.

  • Carnegie, PA

    Can’t wait for the next book in the series.... of course there is going to be a series, we have to know what happens to Laz! I have read all of Mr. Winters’books, and this one is just as awesome!

  • Cleveland Heights, OH

    I LOVE Ben Winters' style in this book. I'm eager to read more of his works now. The story was good and the characters enjoyable, but the setting, plot, and style were what really enriched it for me.

  • Saint Paul, MN

    The ending was much warmer than what I thought was coming. I couldn’t put this down even as I guessed what was likely going to unfold and gave me a lot to consider about ever unfolding culture....

  • Champaign , IL

    I really loved this book. I found it super engaging and thought-provoking. I like that I wasn't able to guess the ending and I would be able to read it again and still find things that surprise me.

  • Orangeburg, SC

    I absolutely love the premise of this book! It certainly reminded me of Fahrenheit 451 but it all the best ways. I absolutely loved how it made you think and will be keeping this on in my library!!

  • Schertz, TX

    Fahrenheit 451 is one of my favorite books and this book reminded me very much of it. I flew through its pages and enjoyed the characters, setting and the thoughts it sparked. A great sci-fi book!

  • Gilroy, CA

    In this novel where lying is the worst crime to be committed the reader is left to decide what is "truth". With a unique point of view and concept this book will have you interested until the end!

  • Minneapolis, MN

    I really liked this book and enjoyed making comparisons between this fictional world and the real world that we live in. It left room for a sequel as well, and I think there is more to this story.

  • Grand Blanc, MI

    When I first started reading this book, it didn't really grab my attention. Then the action really picked up, more aspects of their world was revealed, and the mystery grew. Love how it turned out!

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