To me, what makes this book different from most other "hacker documentary" books is the detached style in which it's written. The authors are both journalists, and it shows: The book lacks the warmth of a normal story told from a normal storywriter. Instead, it's a cold, sterile collection of facts, like a 300-page newspaper article.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. It just means the writing is kind of dry. But that doesn't make it boring. Indeed, most of the book is quite fascinating. In fact, after a while I began to appreciate the objective air that this style lent to the book: Most authors of this kind of book either try to be sympathetic to the crackers, representing them as harmless kids who only try to explore, or an evil menace which must be destroyed for our own safety. Markoff and Hafner, however, write with the unbiased, unopinionated journalism that befits people of their background.
Of course, when writing a book, you don't need to express opinions to make the text biased; You just need to present only one side of the facts. However, I do not feel that this is the case with this book. The book does not try to represent one side as good and the other bad. It just tells you something about both. There's both good and bad there.
So what's with all the people who say that the book is "biased"? I'm really not sure. I notice, however, that all of the people who say that are pointing specifically to Kevin Mitnick's case, and recommending Littman's "The Fugitive Game" (which is more sympathetic to Mitnick and his case) as a "better" book. The only reason I can figure for this is that the FREE KEVIN people are upset because the book does not agree with their ideals that Kevin is innocent and should be praised for being a "hacker". Sounds to me like those reviewers, and not the authors, are the ones with the personal bias.
SCREW KEVIN. He overstepped the line and went too far when he should have known better. Yes, his case has been mismanaged, but... But, I digress. Anyway. This book is not the be-all, end-all for learning about the hack/phreak culture (it's only three case studies, after all), but it's a good place to start if you've never familiarized yourself with that culture before. And even if you have, you'll probably find some tidbits here you didn't know. Score one for investigative journalism.