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Golden State (2019)

by Ben Winters

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3101963,390 (3.65)28
From award-winning, New York Times bestselling novelist Ben H. Winters comes a mind-bending novel set in a world governed by absolute truth, where lies are as dangerous as murder. In a strange alternate society that values law and truth above all else, Laszlo Ratesic is a nineteen-year veteran of the Speculative Service. He lives in the Golden State, a nation standing where California once did, a place where like-minded Americans retreated after the erosion of truth and the spread of lies made public life and governance impossible. In the Golden State, knowingly contradicting the truth is the greatest crime -- and stopping those crimes 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. But the Golden State is less of a paradise than its name might suggest. To monitor, verify, and enforce the truth requires a veritable panopticon of surveillance and recording. And when those in control of the facts twist them for nefarious means, the Speculators are the only ones with the power to fight back.… (more)
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    Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins (sturlington)
    sturlington: Two visions of a future California
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» See also 28 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
It was an original alternative future story - not a future that ever *could* happen (it involves a fantastical feature), but it does describe a society that could, indeed, get to where it had such a future. Bit of a moral/message in here, but it is not overbearing or preachy and is just a neat way to wrap up the storyline.

I like Winters' work in general - have read several others, and figure they are all well work the time (Last Policeman, Underground Airlines). ( )
  crazybatcow | Apr 3, 2021 |
Overall I liked this book a lot. There is some intense and quite focused world-building going on. Not only in the story, situation and characters, but in the way the book is presented - as the form of novel acceptable in the story. In a world where lies are criminal, liars are punished and those who are mentally disconnected from reality exiled, a novel is not what it is in our world. Instead of pure fiction it is a form of narrative that explores and explains the Golden State, its heroes and how it came to be. This story fits within that narrative structure and has lovely asides to address the reader directly as if you live in the Golden State and are subject to its rules and mores. Absolutely great. So imaginative and immersing.

It’s an alternate/future state of California which is no longer part of the US and lying - in pretty much all its forms - is a crime. There are people with the ability to sense lies and they are part of the Speculators agency that ferrets out untruths and liars. The name of their agency is taken from the fact that they, and only they, are permitted to speculate - to imagine, to riff, to throw out ideas that may, or may not be grounded in absolute truth. At least to do it out loud. In this society the phrase ‘what if’ is verboten.

That would be enough, but fiction of any kind is banned and even dreams are suppressed with drugs. So no novels, no poetry, no films, no short stories, no acting or actors - none of that is legal. Sure those things might exist outside of the Golden State, but not within. Whenever the clock chimes the hour people turn to each other and say “It’s 11 o’clock, did you hear that? It’s 11 o’clock and that is true.” When meeting or greeting they say affirmations like “The earth revolves around the sun.” And the response is “And the moon revolves around the earth and it has always been so and it will always be so.” Very weird.

Everything is recorded. Everything. They each have ‘day books’ where they record every contact with another person or agency. They stamp each others’ before any meeting to put things ‘on the record’. The record is sacred; absolute and highly proscribed. There are roving capture teams that record events in daily life - on the corner, in shops, in bars, in neighborhoods. There are “captures” everywhere - even in every room of your home. TV consists of feeds from these cameras with channels like “people having lunch” and “old men walking dogs”. The Speculator agents wear ‘pinholes’ - hats with cameras. When a person dies, the Death Agents come and take the boxes of day books and other ephemera for the permanent record. It’s crazy, but interesting in the wake of this latest President and the wave of fake news that plagues us. Could this be a rational response and could people evolve to sense untruth the way they do heat and cold?

It got me to thinking how long I could go without a little lie, or shade of speculation or imagination. Even aspects of untruth like elaborations or lying by omission will get you in trouble, so how long could I go? How much of our conversation and sharing would just go unsaid? People aren't flippant with each other and they seem to ask fewer questions knowing that they'll get fewer lies. Truth, the hard truth, is weaponized more than once to make points and to make people suffer. It's interesting and makes me realize how integrated into our psyches lies are. How they make things fluid and swift and how a 2 year old will lie as easily as she breathes.

But it isn’t perfect. I found the end to be confusing; it doesn’t go far enough to explain what happened to Mr. Ratesic. My biggest issue is where the set up started - with his brother, Charlie, or is he separate? Or was it only internal conspirators connected to his own department and others who are experts in the law? I wanted this to be more clear.

Clearly I need to listen to it again (the audio version with Kiff VandenHeuvel narrating is pretty darn great) and especially the last part as Mr. Ratesic discovers how deep the rabbit hole goes. It’s crazy and fun to speculate about (ha!), but I’m glad I don’t live in the Golden State. ( )
  Bookmarque | Oct 8, 2020 |
Fascinating novel about a near-future society's attempt to eradicate lying from human nature. A must-read if you are concerned by the battle over truth and fiction currently playing out in the world. ( )
  cygnoir | Jun 27, 2020 |
This book would have resonated with me at any time, but it is especially relevant now. Golden State is what California has become in this alternate reality of our world. After some sort of catastrophe, the Golden State was created as a refuge from lies. The worst thing anyone can do is commit the crime of lying, and to keep the populace truthful, there are cameras everywhere, recording all actions and transactions from varied angles. Citizens, including the enforcers and those in the governing bodies, maintain Day Books, which are journals they write all their daily transactions, then store safely for future reference. And everything goes into the permanent Record.

Laszlo Ratesic has nearly two decades working in the Speculative Service, special truth enforcers who are capable of sensing lies. When a roofer falls to his death, it becomes Laszlo's job, along with his rookie partner on her first day, to seek out any anomalies. The death seems cut and dried, but a little investigating reveals a small anomaly that leads to another, and suddenly, the cut-and-dried case is leading the two Speculators down a dangerous path.

Winters is a clever writer who not only creates fascinating realities, but also almost painfully real characters and enough tension and plot twists that kept me reading. At its heart, the book (to me, anyway) asks "What is truth?" and "Do we want to live in a world where every moment in one's life is recorded and fiction is unknown?" And still, people lie and twist the truth. Can any irrefutable truth even exist and how much are we willing to give up for it to exist? In our reality, technology is already advanced enough for these questions to be considered, before it's too late. ( )
  ShellyS | Jun 19, 2020 |
I'm always a BIG fan of science fiction that girds its loins in the heaviest armor and strides boldly into the darkest, most complicated territories. The more ambitious the novel, the more props I am absolutely forced to give it. :) Of course, it has to also blow me away, but the core courage and not just good writing has to shine through for me to WOOOOOOOO!!!! ;)

It's easy enough to say this is a panopticon where every last bit of our modern lives in this future Utopian California resembles 1984, but it's closer to say it's a slightly different take on [b:The City & the City|4703581|The City & the City|China Miéville|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1320475957s/4703581.jpg|4767909]. Where the other novel is focused on keeping a lie going that separates two overlapping worlds, Winter's police drama is focused on the deeply ironic law that places Truth on the highest pedestal. It's ironic because while all falsehoods are immediately found out and punished thanks to the uber-surveillance State, the Golden State's history is shrouded in mystery. And fiction is utterly subversive despite the deeper truths within it.

White lies carry heavy sentences. Acting is an unheard-of crime.

We follow an old cop whose job is to ferret out lies and watch as his world unravels before him. The mysteries are well-thought out and a perfect foil for the premise. I totally enjoyed the traditional mystery aspects as much as the hardcore social SF.

So is this just another Big Idea dystopian in utopian colors? It might seem that way, but Winters pulls off one hell of a great and *important* read without treading on any other novel's toes. :) No re-hash.

This is about taking on TRUTH head-on. :) Well worth the read! ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ben Wintersprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kulick, GreggCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Petrides, HenryCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Future (n.), usually the future: the set of possible events which are neither happening nor have happened but which may happen, including those possible events which will happen, but which are not yet distinguishable from the far greater group which will not. [Nota bene: avoid where possible.] -- The Everyday Citizen's Dictionary, 43rd edition, the Golden State Publishing Arm
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For Irwin Hyman who built the world he wanted to live in
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This is a novel.
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The preservation of reality’s integrity is the paramount duty of the citizenry and of the government alike. What kind of mad society would be organized otherwise? -Page 55
Nine tall white letters on the side of a hill, spelling a word that if it meant something to somebody once, means nothing to anyone now. Nothing that can be known. -Page 174
...now I’ve come down hard on a bone truth, on the brutal bone truth that if there is ever anything that somebody could do—something violent, something perverse, something cruel and unconscionable—if there is ever anything that somebody could do, somebody is going to do it, somebody has already done it. -Page 251
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From award-winning, New York Times bestselling novelist Ben H. Winters comes a mind-bending novel set in a world governed by absolute truth, where lies are as dangerous as murder. In a strange alternate society that values law and truth above all else, Laszlo Ratesic is a nineteen-year veteran of the Speculative Service. He lives in the Golden State, a nation standing where California once did, a place where like-minded Americans retreated after the erosion of truth and the spread of lies made public life and governance impossible. In the Golden State, knowingly contradicting the truth is the greatest crime -- and stopping those crimes 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. But the Golden State is less of a paradise than its name might suggest. To monitor, verify, and enforce the truth requires a veritable panopticon of surveillance and recording. And when those in control of the facts twist them for nefarious means, the Speculators are the only ones with the power to fight back.

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