I had the author's first version of this book and was impressed enough with it that i also got the revised edition (volume one) and eagerly awaited this volume (volume two). The uathor impressed enough in the previous edition and volume that my expectations felt they were too high for this one. Fortunately, those expectations were met and easily surpassed. Here's why.
The style of instruction is detailed and the accompanying images as well as figures match the text that you are never lost and your momentum is never broken. You build the models with just the right images, details and advice.
But while this may seem like a blanket generalization common to excellent 3d books, what makes this book really stand out is how it shows the content you will hardly find elsewhere, plus related important lessons you will not have to find elsewhere, including what I can only describe as insider information and methodologies that can only come from somebody with not only deep knowledge of the gaming, animation and the general 3D industey but someone who still works in it and has a very keen sense of what the latest technology and tools are available at your disposal to produce cutting edge work-- the way seasoned professionals do it, and then readily shows you exactly how it's done.
This time it IS different in that the workflows and actual pre-modeling as well as planning and related relevent work is shown, in the way gaming studios do it and showing a depth in the topics you will not find elsewhere.
For example, apart from the chapters on modeling and game mechanics and methods, it includes such gems as how to plan your projects, how make the actual plans, briefs, sketches, concept art, mood boards, and LODs (level of detail) implementation, among many others. Some are the stuff that may seem like they belong in other books you may not care to buy, while some are just specially available in this book, coalescing around the concept of 3D modeling for games. It also provides coverage on 3ds Max's strong new features like graphite modeling tools as well as the vaunted Nitrous accelerated graphics.
The theme focuses on building models of a boy, his robot, and many environmental elements, including props and vegetation. The idea is in making a bit of a departure from the usual realistic modeling style to what is also a very popular (but not often addressed) artful, playful characters like you'll find in many games and films such thise in the styles of Pixar and Dreamworks.
There are two key caveats about this book, however. The first is that it is not for the absolute beginner. There are a lot of other books for that, and this is meant to address that great need for information beyond the basics. (That being said, the author still adds enough of the basics anyway so no one gets lost. Talk about commitment.)
The second caveat, and something many may cry afoul about, is that in this volume, the author provides the key tools available and relevant in the "here and now," and this may make the title seem a bit misleading to some, because this volume actually has more pages devoted to Autodesk MAYA and zBrush than it has for (also Autodesk's own) 3ds Max!
But do not be surprised, or fooled into thinking this is wrong because it actually fits perfectly and is absolutely appropriate with how Maya has grown to such heights that it has moved not only from the realm of finding its strongest use in film but now also in conjunction with 3ds Max in the gaming industry as a key part of standard pipelines. And you will see why when you read the book.
What is actually happening here is that instead of focusing on what would have been the narrow confines of the subject (3ds Max)-- something that would have limited you to miss recent industry direction as well as in the real reasons for buying the book (3D modeling for games and key 3D lessons, instead of a primer on one particular software)-- the book gives you the clear, big picture.
This book and its accompanying first volume stand very well on their own, and you can also use it in conjunction with related Maya and Zbrush books from Eric Keller, Lee Lanier and Scott Spencer, and watch your level of awesome in the technical side of 3D skills match that bona fide pros.
I would have easily given this book 5 stars if it focused solely on core 3ds Max concepts. But it's like you get the integral chapters on Maya and zBrush for free, and I would have gladly given it six stars out of five.