NOTHING LIKE IT IN THE WORLD is the story of the men who built the transcontinental railroad – the investors who risked their businesses and money; the enlightened politicians who understood its importance; the engineers and surveyors who risked, and sometimes lost, their lives; and the Irish and Chinese immigrants, the defeated Confederate soldiers, and the other labourers who did the backbreaking and dangerous work on the tracks. The US government pitted two companies – the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads – against each other in a race for funding, encouraging speed over caution. Locomotives, rails and spikes were shipped from the East through Panama or around South America to the West, or lugged across the country to the Plains. In Ambrose's hands, this enterprise, with its huge expenditure of brainpower, muscle and sweat, comes vibrantly to life.
On May 10, 1869, telegraphers sent the word done from Promontory Point, Utah, throughout the nation, signaling the completion of what Walt Whitman referred to as "the road between Europe and Asia." The transcontinental railroad, which connected the vast American territories, cut the trip from New York City to San Francisco from many months to seven days. Ambrose's (Undaunted Courage) epic account, diligently and powerfully read by DeMunn, details the incredible mobilization of manpower and financing that was "the very embodiment of system." He tells it all with verve: the financial finagling, the impulse to simplify by "exterminating" Native Americans, the backbreaking work and the fierce competition between railroad companies that fueled the effort. This gritty, momentous tale of the personalities that pressed across the wild American West with rail and tie celebrates the feat that brought the U.S. into the modern age. Simultaneous release with the S&S hardcover and trade paperback. (Forecasts, July 3). n