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Golden State by Ben H. Winters

Golden State

by Ben H. Winters

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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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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.
Golden State

Part One


This is a novel.

All of the words of it are true.

The extraordinary events detailed herein were either experienced firsthand by the author or, when relayed second- or thirdhand, have been double-checked (triple-, where possible), verified, and certified by the relevant departments, and substantiated through the reading of testimony, examination of material evidence, and review of relevant reality. All of the supporting documents and extant evidence are available upon request in the appropriate offices; physical addresses are included as an appendix.

All of these events occurred as described. It’s all on the Record.


Though the author is a character in the events that follow, he claims no part of the glory they reflect. All glory belongs to the heroic Speculator, Mr. Ratesic, whose perseverance and heroism are on display throughout.

This author is loath to resort to set phrases like “He made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the State,” conscious as he is of the care we all must take not to fumble by cliché into accidental lies. But in this case, there can be no other conclusion. In service to the State, Mr. Ratesic made the ultimate sacrifice.

Willingly, and conscious of mounting dangers to his person, and despite numerous opportunities to save himself, he continued unflinching in his brave pursuit of the wickedness he had discovered, and ultimately was successful in foiling a grave assault upon the State—all at the hazard of his own health and safety.

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Why I love it

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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Member ratings (4,076)

  • Stanzie K.

    Lincoln, RI

    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!

  • Jared B.

    Hernando, MS

    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!

  • Elizabeth W.

    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

  • Benjamin L.

    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

  • Tiffany M.


    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!

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