Set in the future, Ben H. Winters's novel posits a world where California exists alone, past its borders lies an unknown wasteland. Truth has become all important, and the protagonist of this novel works as a speculator, a truth cop who can feel a lie. Lazlo is a loner, haunted by the death of his brother and unhappy about being assigned a trainee. But at their first crime scene of the day, his new partner catches something he would have missed and they find themselves investigating a crime that is larger and more complex than he could have imagined. Golden State works really well as a standard crime novel, albeit with an unusual setting. But it really shines when it comes to world building. There's more to this than lying becoming the greatest crime. Winters has thought of what the implications of this might be and it's fascinating. Winters also refuses to go in any of the expected directions, leading to a novel that never failed to surprise, delight and discombobulate.
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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.
Ben H. Winters
|Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)|
5.75 x 5.25 x 1.50 Inches
Set in the future, Ben...
Intriguing Premise Doe...
Intriguing Premise Doesn't Quite Hold Up Review of the Mulholland Books hardcover edition (2019) "The Earth is in orbit around the sun.""And the Moon is in orbit around the Earth." Banal exchanges of facts, such as the above, take the place of historical salutations such as "Hello, how are you?" in a future Golden State, because presumably many people have to lie when they give the common response of "I'm fine. How are you?" as most people are dealing with work or life issues which cause them to be "not fine" at every single moment and perhaps are not necessarily interested in how the other person is at the time. The idea of a post-apocalyptic totalitarian state where not telling the truth becomes an illegal act that is punishable by a minimum several years prison sentence and more egregious acts get you banished to the outer wastelands was a great setup here. The Golden State exists in an area that is identifiably that of the previous U.S. State of California. The exact nature of the apocalypse that caused the fragmentation of the U.S. is not identified, but given the present day political climate it is a reasonable assumption that lying and the back and forth accusations of "fake news" were somehow at the heart of it. Our protagonist Laszlo Ratisec, an agent of the Speculative Service which is tasked with policing truth crime, is introduced early in the book in a diner-restaurant scene where he is able to sense that lying is taking place in the room through his innate lie-detection powers. The nature of this power is never properly explained, although there is a hint that it may be genetic and is perhaps a synesthesia-type sense (where you can "taste"/"smell" the truth of "sound"). All of that was quite intriguing. The plot of this became wearisome though as Laszlo is gradually undermined by external forces that his supposed vaunted powers are not able to detect. It then became a roller coaster ride of 'nothing is as it seems'. I became frustrated with it even though it did come to a relatively reasonable conclusion. I felt that I never really got a proper idea of the conspiracy that Laszlo was fighting against. So I've got to come down with a middling rating between "it was ok" and "liked it."
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