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Publisher's Summary

From award-winning New York Times best-selling 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 19-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 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.

©2019 Ben Winters (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"At a time in the real world when everybody seems to own their version of the truth and phrases like 'alternative facts' are used to cover falsehoods, Golden State is, no lie, a fascinating examination that takes fidelity and correctness down a freaky Orwellian path." (USA Today

"Thought-provoking, genre-bending...Winters seems to have a real affection for unusually compelling premises.... He certainly knows how to bring those premises to life in a way that keeps readers flipping pages.... What's especially intriguing about the book is the way Winters dispenses information, dropping a hint here, a key sentence there, and letting us figure out what happened in the past that led to a society in which the punishment for telling a lie could be exile.... Another fine novel from a writer whose imagination knows no bounds." (Booklist)

"Once again, Ben H. Winters creates a world cleverly skewed a few crucial degrees from our own.... Winters is well aware of the tropes of dystopian noir, and it is fun to watch him mix and match them to good effect.... The detective plot works well, but it is in its questioning of the nature of truth and falsehood that the novel excels.... Smart, intricate, and propulsive, Golden State is proof that Winters deserves our continued attention as one of crime fiction's most inventive practitioners." (San Francisco Chronicle

What listeners say about Golden State

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

As good as Underground Airlines, probably better!

“Imagine if everyone did it. Imagine if each person were allowed the luxury of claiming their own truth, building a reality of their own in which they can live. Imagine the danger that would pose. How quickly those lies would metastasize and the extraordinary threat that would pose to the world.” (Laszlo Ratesic)

Sounds like today’s politics!

I loved Winters’ last novel, Underground Airlines, and I wasn’t disappointed. In an alternate California, in a universe where truth is the ultimate law and lies are punishable by imprisonment or exile, Laszlo Ratesic is a veteran of the Speculative Service, the “truth police.” But the Golden State is not the paradise that its name suggests. The truth is monitored, verified, and enforced by 24-hour intrusive 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

4 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Frustrated & Confused

This book had an intriguing premise, that's for sure – but absolutely nothing made sense. And not in a way that's like "it's up to the reader to figure out what happened," in a way that's like "why did these 7 or 8 plot points not resolve in any capacity?" The ending, in particular, was a huge letdown.

I won't lie, I finished it in a few days because I was intrigued. The combination of the writing & narration made it seem like a futuristic/sci-fi/dystopian noir law enforcement mystery. For that reason, I can't in good conscience give it 1 star. But man... the book wraps up leaving absolutely no questions answered. None of the characters' motivations or actions were explained and the ending seemed unfathomably rushed (as in... the last 15 minutes of the audiobook), like a halfhearted excuse to explain away huge chunks of the book.

I finished this book extremely frustrated & confused. I don't doubt that this writer has potential, and the story's characters and premise DEFINITELY have potential, but my humble recommendation would be to skip this one.

3 people found this helpful

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3.41 stars

In this audiobook it is a felony to tell a lie, so in the spirit of truth I must say that Golden State was a bit of a disappointment. I was looking forward to this release because I really liked Winters' last novel, Underground Airlines. Golden State has its moments, but there are not many of them, and it just wasn't all that engaging. The idea was okay. The story was okay, and the narrator was okay. Overall, it was just okay.

Overall rating: 3.41 stars

8 people found this helpful

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Unbearable Narrator

VanderHeuvel narrates like a pedantic professor recovering from a concussion. I'm sorry to be harsh, but this was unbearable. I couldn't get past the first few minutes.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

wait, what?

So, there's a sequel to actually resolve this or we're just left hanging?
I was enjoying the story but it seemed to take forever to get anywhere and then suddenly they put a brick on the accelerator and I couldn't follow.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Disappointing

The idea is interesting but its so dull . Loves the writing style but this whole novel just so confusing especially at the end.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Clunky and cliched, but still kinda fun

I didn’t dislike this book, but from the beginning I had 2 issues: 1) the narrator is a cliched version of the gruff detective character, complete with love of fast food, emotional unavailability, but a heart of gold. 2) the “truth”
Society is likewise so over the top caricatured that it can only be used as a foil (which it is). Would’ve prob worked better as a short story.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Quite an interesting alternative future story

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 from Audible and figure they are all well work the credits (Last Policeman, Underground Airlines).

Narration is good. There is nothing graphic.

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Worth it

Started off slowly but it grew on me. I recommend this for anyone. Trust me, I’d love a sequel of this

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Fascinating but no ending

I really enjoyed this book, finding the premise and setting fascinating. It has great worldbuilding and I found myself very intrigued - however, having just finished it, I am still intrigued. The ending didn't resolve anything, there are still so many unanswered questions. Is this planned to be a series? I hope there's more to come because it feels like there was a lot left unsaid.