The story he tells has no end of crazy and bizarre characters: sleazy politicians, robber baron-style railroad tycoons, corrupt newspaper publishers, many of them considered the political and economic founders of Canada. Somehow, in a few short years, this band of misfits managed to build the world's longest railway across a vast, unforgiving land, much of which was unknown to non-Natives. The project left a mixed legacy. Opposition politicians denounced it as "insane" and "reckless," accurately predicting that the massive spending would lead to a flood of corruption. It almost bankrupted the country and provoked the displacement of the Native peoples of the Prairies from their ancestral lands. The railroad became the spine of an empire, an imperial highway linking Britain with Asia, conveniently paid for by the Canadian public. On the other hand, the railway dream is also credited with binding together a fledgling nation with a steel ribbon. "The dream," wrote Berton, "would be the filling up of the empty spaces and the dawn of a new Canada." --Alex Roslin --This text refers to the Paperback edition.