The Trouble with the Wishes of Leopold Stokes
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December, 1992. Leopold Stokes, a small town Carolina banker with big dreams, ambitions—and temper—springs for his first laptop from his old friend Charley Bass. On the computer is a software program Leo didn’t pay for: “Ultimaya 1.0,” which promises to “fulfill his deepest wishes.” Leo queries Charley, who encourages him to see what it’s all about. Leo can’t resist. He opens the program—and is soon hurtling into the adventure of a lifetime…
His first foray into working with the mysterious program has a totally shocking result: a wish that Leo voices in anger at Nan, his housekeeper and longtime family friend, comes true and Leo realizes that Ultimaya 1.0 has tremendous powers to do exactly what it promises—but only for him.
Shattered by what happened with Nan, but astounded by the possibilities the program offers, Leo desperately tries to get some kind of bargaining leverage with Ultimaya 1.0. But he continually fails. He consults with Charley, an enthusiastic experimenter with psychedelics in the 1960s and Eastern meditation in the 1970s. He repeatedly warns Leo of the karmic dangers of trying to exploit the program for his own ends. But for all his inhibitions and ambivalence in so much of his life—including his longtime, on-and-off romance with high school flame Constance Cunningham—Leo has a lust for power that Ultimaya talks to loud and clear.
As he struggles to express his wishes and yet control the program, Leo gets taken deeper into mysterious coincidences he can’t understand. Finally, frustrated to the max, he throws caution to the winds and insists that Ultimaya 1.0 fulfill all his deepest wishes—immediately–but cannot, in his wildest dreams, imagine where that command will wind up taking him.
Part Aladdin and His Magic Lamp with a computer for a genie, part Sorcerer’s Apprentice with no sorcerer to take command, and part modern-day Christmas Carol that keeps us guessing and sometimes wincing until the very end, Ultimaya 1.0 is a hip, hugely satisfying sci-fi fantasy fable. It talks to and touches our hearts, engages our minds, keeps us laughing and amused even while we tumble with Leo into sometimes wrenching outcomes and consequences—and will keep us pondering the mysteries of what it means for Leo to fulfill his deepest wishes, and for us to fulfill our own, for a long time to come.