The Golden State is a state in which everything is recorded and when I say everything, I literally mean everything. Devices called “captures” are installed everywhere you could possibly imagine. On a ceiling fan, on a fridge. Outside on trees, street signs. They are everywhere and they record everything.
However, these devices are not the only means of recording. Every citizen of the Golden State keeps a record of everything they do through the day. A physical record in the form of a book or journal in which their whole life, every minute is recorded. These accounts are stamped or verified by other people to make sure they are true and accurate.
What is the point of all this recording? To provide proof, evidence of lies or untruths. In the Golden State it is illegal to lie. A crime that comes not only with a prison sentence, but, depending on the severity, exile.
The actual point of all the recording is to provide proof of reality. If something is not recorded, if there is no evidence or recording of a fact, then how can it be said to be a reality. Is this a Utopian state or a Dystopian state? Anything that is not true is a lie, there is no nuance. Citizens of the Golden State believe that to live in an unrecorded world is to untether oneself from reality. Existence in the Golden State is binary, truth or not, and it’s the job of the protagonist of this novel to uncover the not. Discover any anomalies with the truth.
Even with all this recording taking place it would still be impossible to catch every lie and that is where our protagonist comes in. Ratesic is a Speculator. He is a member of a special branch of the authorities who by an unknown process can “sense” when somebody is lying. He sees a shimmer, a movement in the air, a shift, when somebody is lying.
When Ratesic makes a mistake and senses a lie, that later seems not to be a lie, there are repercussions that could destroy the Golden State itself. If a Speculator has been found to sense a lie where there is in fact none, then their credibility is not just at stake, it is effectively destroyed. Then like a ripple in a pond the repercussions will reverberate through the whole system. One mistaken lie will throw the whole system into chaos and inevitably destruction.
One must wonder at the quality of life in the Golden State. People greet each other with proven facts. One may say, “two plus two is four”, to which the other will reply “ten minus five is five”. Every time the clock strikes the hour people turn to each other verifying that the hour is indeed true and correct. There are no fictional novels or films because they are not true.
I don’t think that anybody will miss the drone fired missile aimed directly at Trump and his fake news stories here. It almost feels like Winters is saying to Trump that the Golden State is an existence where there is no fake news and if there is it is quickly dealt with.
This novel fits like a hand in glove with the “fake news” era we are in! 4.5 Stars.
Ben H. Winters is the author of eight novels, including most recently World of Trouble, the concluding book in the Last Policeman trilogy. World of Trouble was nominated for the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. Countdown City was an NPR Best Book of 2013 and the winner of the Philip K. Dick Award for Distinguished Science Fiction. The Last Policeman was the recipient of the 2012 Edgar Award, and it was also named one of the Best Books of 2012 by Amazon.com and Slate.
Ben's other books Literally Disturbed, a book of scary poems for kids; the New York Times bestselling parody novel Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and a novel for young readers, The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman, which was a Bank Street Best Children's Book of 2011 as well as an Edgar Nominee in the juvenile category. In the spring or summer of 2016 published a new novel, Underground Airlines
Ben has also written extensively for the theater, and was a 2009-2010 Fellow of the Dramatists Guild; his plays for young audiences include The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, A (Tooth) Fairy Tale and Uncle Pirate, and his plays for not-young audiences include the 2008 Off-Broadway musical Slut and the "jukebox musical" Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, which is produced frequently across the country and around the world. Ben's journalism has appeared in The Chicago Reader, The Nation, In These Times, USA Today, the Huffington Post, and lots of other places.
Ben grew up in suburban Maryland, went to college at Washington University in St. Louis, and has subsequently lived in six different cities—seven if you count Brooklyn twice for two different times. Presently he lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his wife Diana, a law professor, and their three children.
There is an excellent interview with Winters here - https://www.wired.com/2012/07/ben-h-winters/