Book Review | In ‘Golden State’, Anything but the Truth is Illegal

Posted February 22, 2019 by Bonnie in 2019, Audiobooks, Book Reviews / 10 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review | In ‘Golden State’, Anything but the Truth is IllegalGolden State by Ben H. Winters
Narrator: Kiff VandenHeuvel
Published by Mulholland Books on January 22, 2019
Length: 10 hours and 26 minutes
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: Audiobook
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible

Also by this author: Countdown City, The Quiet Boy


A shocking vision of our future that is one part Minority Report and one part Chinatown.

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.

‘Each is an interesting fact, and each fact, each piece of truth, is valuable and precious in and of itself, every fact beloved in our good and golden world […]’

Golden State is set in a dystopian, and sovereign, California where cops possess the ability to detect lies and emitting falsehoods will earn you years in prison. Video cameras capture everything and it is all stored in the permanent record as a part of what is “Objectively So,” people greet one another with undeniable statements to vocalize their commitment to the truth, and at the end of each day, citizens are required to itemize their day in a journal (making sure to include any applicable receipts or documentation available). Laszlo Ratesic is a speculator in the Speculative Service and his job is to seek out lies which appear to him as a slight ripple; a dissonance in the air. His current case is investigating the irregularities surrounding the death of a construction worker that fell off a roof. Despite the seeming straightforwardness of the case, Laszlo’s investigation will lead him to the center of a grand conspiracy seeking to undermine the fundamentals of the Golden State.

‘[…] the preservation of reality’s integrity is the paramount duty of the good citizenry and of this government alike. Imagine what kind of mad society would be organized otherwise.’

Golden State reads like a blend of 1984Fahrenheit 451, and Minority Report but really played well on what Winters is becoming known for: well-written speculative futures + noir style mysteries that easily play on fears of possible futures to come. This plot is most definitely a play on the current administration’s continued insistence regarding “Fake News” and “alternative facts” and brings to life a world where the truth is absolute. Winters intent is obviously to show just how dangerous this concept is but for me, the plot got a little messy, the end goal really missed the mark, and the whole story strayed instead into predictable territory. What could have been a fascinating inside look at a corrupt government instead transformed into your standard corruption thriller.

‘…he has made his monstrous point about the rings of truth, about context and omission: he has illustrated that no matter how much we know, there are parts of the story that are missing.
There are elements unknown and unknowable, whether we know it or not.’

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The Last One by Alexandra Oliva [Purchase|Review]
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker [Purchase|Review]


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