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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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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.

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 (4,007)

  • Stanzie K.

    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!

  • Jared B.

    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!

  • Quinn C.

    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!

  • Ashley H.

    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.

  • 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!