In Yellow Earth, John Sayles introduces an epic cast of characters, weaving together narratives of competing agendas and worldviews with lyrical dexterity, insight, and wit.
When rich layers of shale oil are discovered beneath the town of Yellow Earth, all hell breaks loose. Locals, oil workers, service workers, politicians, law enforcement, and get-rich-quick opportunists—along with an earnest wildlife biologist—commingle and collide as the population of the town triples overnight. Harleigh Killdeer, chairman of the tribal business council of the neighboring Three Nations reservation, entertains visions of “sovereignty by the barrel” and joins forces with a fast-talking entrepreneur. From casino dealers to activists and high school kids, everyone in the region is swept up in the unsparing wave of an oil boom.
Sayles’s masterful storytelling draws an arc from the earliest exploitation of this land and its people all the way to twenty-first-century privatization schemes. Through the intertwining lives of its characters, Yellow Earth lays bare how the profit motive erodes human relationships, as well as our living planet. The fate of Yellow Earth serves as a parable for our times.