Ben H. Winters
Ramdom House UK - Cornerstone
The concept of ‘Big Brother’ is something as old as the date when the most memorable book from George Orwell, ‘1984’, was published. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have to explain much about it, as it has been used as a brand for an absolutely non-recommended TV programme. However, it can give anyone who have not read Orwell’s book the idea of what is about.
The word has gain more and more social relevance within the time. The creation and development of new technologies is allowing all of us to recreate most of Orwell’s imaginaries. Although this is a joy for many people it can actually cause some problems like those we are witnessing with the social networks and some massive personal data theft.
In this novel, ‘Golden State’, Ben H. Winters resumes the concept by taking us to a nation which could have been California. It has the same name as the novel, though. In this state all is under control. And when I say ‘under control’ I mean that all your life, doings and conversations are recorded in tapes, videos and writings. It even gets to the point of having to carry a recorder with you when you go out; just in case the microphones installed all around does not gather voices and sounds properly, you know.
Laszlo Ratesic in a Speculator. He is part of the Speculator Service in charge of giving light to all the events taking place in Golden State. In fact, only members of such Service can elaborate and publish theories about any event. They are the only ones with full access to all the mentioned tapes, documents and audios stored. This means they will have all the possible views for an event and therefore speculate about what happened.
The novel kicks off when a man falls from a roof and die. The blow in the head causes his death on the spot. Laszlo and his new colleague will have to research in order to clarify the event and try to figure out if someone is guilty.
This incident allows Ben H. Winters to display all the details behind the world that surrounds the characters. How the recordings and any other document are managed, where they are stored, which is the process to access them and, finally, figure out that even when you try to control everything, corruption remains. And it does not differ so much from the corruption we see around us daily.
‘Golden State’ alternates the explanation about the rules in this world with the criminal side of the story. In my opinion, the speculative side is far more interesting than the latter. The way the author gives you some of the clues about this world, bit by bit, allows the reader to create its own puzzle and therefore understand the society all the individuals are part of. The criminal plot is little more than an excuse to display this world showing all the pros and cons.
The easiest way to shelve this book would be by saying that this is a dystopian novel. However, this would be a bit unfair, as most of the events shown are not far from what we are starting to experience due to the bad use of some emerging technologies.
The novel loses some of its interest in the last third. This is because it is more focus on solving the mystery behind the death at the beginning rather than providing more details about the world where it is settled. I guess this feeling will absolutely depend on the reader.
I think it is worth mentioning the last chapter of the book. In order to avoid spoilers, I would just say that it adds clarification about some theories and mysteries mentioned within the read. However, I don’t think it was something the book really needed. While I was reading this I had the same feeling as when I read the end of ‘The Handmaid’s tale’. If you read ‘Golden State’ you will understand what I mean.
‘Golden State’ leaves me a good feeling at the end. Is a fast-reading novel, perfect both for those who are interested in some speculation about new technologies and societies and for an experienced thriller book reader. It is not new-fangled, but I think it does combine both features with some success. Just in one and only book.