Equal parts spiritual quest, unlikely love story and existential cautionary tale, Bonder’s soulful science fiction novel is about one man’s fantastical journey to understand himself—and God.
Set in the Carolinas in 1992, the story revolves around Leopold Stokes, the CEO of a regional bank who seemingly has it all. But when he buys a laptop from an old friend who owns a chain of computer stores, the technophobic banker accidentally opens up a program called Ultimaya 1.0 that features “virtual” software that promises to fulfill his deepest wishes. But Stokes—who cares little about spiritual things and thinks that God is “at best inconsequential” in the affairs of humans—questions his beliefs when the mysterious, godlike program repeatedly turns his life upside down. He becomes wildly successful in business (“the single most financially powerful man on Earth”), gets elected as a senator and evolves into nothing short of a god. But still he isn’t truly happy—and he’s still alone. After realizing that Ultimaya 1.0 is essentially a “karmic accelerator,” Stokes—an ill-tempered Alice with a Southern drawl—eventually makes it out of his existential rabbit hole and vows to set things straight with those significant in his life—but will it all be for naught? The portrayal of Stokes as a deeply flawed man is a risky but brilliant narrative move; readers will identify with him and experience his transformation on an intimate, profound level. Powered by a subtle sense of humor, brisk pacing and an action-packed, metaphysically nuanced storyline, this novel is simultaneously entertaining and enlightening; it’s powerfully moving and edifying without coming across as preachy or heavy-handed.
An engaging, deeply spiritual story of salvation that will compel readers to look at the world—and themselves—in a different light.