Sleep Dealer (review)

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Here’s where we separate the real science fiction fans from the fake ones. If you don’t mind reading subtitles, don’t need tons of flashy FX, and prefer ideas over explosions, congratulations: you’re a real SF fan. Made on the cheap compared to Hollywood flicks, this thrillingly original and heartfelt Mexican film is a truly human story about the impact of technology on individuals and on society. Making his feature debut, director Alex Rivera (who cowrote the script with David Riker) envisions an entirely plausible near future in which Internet telepresence — you plug your head into a computer in the border town of Tijuana, for instance, and you can operate a construction robot in Los Angeles or a nannying robot in New York — has resulted in virtual immigration (give us your economically depressed workforce yearning to work cheap, but keep your foreign body at home) and a new era of not-so-virtual imperialism. We discover this world via Memo Cruz (Luis Fernando Pena), a poor farmboy forced into a job in a networked factory when his family is pegged as “aqua terrorists” — they didn’t steal water from the fenced-off, corporate-controlled dam near their farm, but someone sure did — and wannabe journalist Luz Martinez (Leonor Varela), who uploads her memories to the Net and sells them to the highest bidder… including a client willing to pay top price for her memories of her new friend Memo. Powerfully imagined, nicely performed, and demanding to be heeded, this is a startling and important look at the dangers and promises of the future from an angle most North American audiences won’t have been exposed to before. If you liked the new perspective on the genre offered by District 9, then you’ll welcome this one, too.

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Tue, Sep 08, 2009 3:54pm

This story seems remarkably simialr to one I read a while back in Aanalog or Asimov’s (I can’t remember which), except that the poor teleimmigrants came from Nigeria. I’ll have to go back and see if I can find the title and author.

Mon, Sep 14, 2009 1:24pm

Netflix’d this and saw it last week. It’s good enough, but very slow and fairly predictable.

Mon, Sep 14, 2009 7:32pm

I found the story I was referencing earlier. It was Lagos by Matthew Johnson in the August 2008 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction.

Matthew Johnson
Wed, Sep 16, 2009 8:18am

Hey AJP,

You’re not the first one to point out similarities between the movie and my story “Lagos”: John Rogers mentioned it in his review of the film for the Asimov’s website ( I don’t think there’s any actual connection between the two, though; it’s an obvious idea that I’m surprised it hasn’t shown up more places.

Matthew Johnson
Wed, Sep 16, 2009 8:21am

I forgot to mention, if anyone else is interested in reading “Lagos” it was reprinted online in a webzine called Expanded Horizons; you can read it at