As one of the nearly 100 technical reviewers for this book, I found this is a "must read" that will likely become THE classic reference for self-replicating machine systems. If you are familiar with Freitas' previous work (especially Nanomedicine, volumes I and II, but also the NASA Ames summer study [...] then you'll know what to expect, and you won't be disappointed. And with the addition of Ralph Merkle's genius, I'm not surprised that the book is as good as it is.
Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines is an impressively thorough compendium of everything that's known, or has ever been done, in this field, including all theoretical and experimental efforts. The treatment is literally encyclopedic, with over 3000 literature references, hundreds of illustrations, and descriptions of several working systems which have already been built and operated in laboratory settings. KSRM is a surprising readable book that's an important resource for anyone interested in machine self-replication. If you want to learn about the history (all the way from Descartes) to this year's state of the art, especially self-replication of hardware as opposed to software, then this book is the one to get. Yes, it's a bit expensive, but it is truly a magnificent resource.
The book contains an exhaustive history of self-replicating machines, including von Neumann's studies and information-based replicators like computer viruses, proposals for self-replicating factories and actual achievements of self-replicating devices, and a complete discussion of proposals for microscale replicators which includes a description (for context) of the many ways biology replicates.
The authors also provide a new general taxonomy of replicators with a 137-dimensional classification system that subsumes all known actual and proposed self-replicating machine systems (though I'm sure that future systems and proposals will include more). No taxonomy ever proposed has come anywhere close to this level of comprehensiveness and specificity. There's also a technical discussion of many theoretical issues involving replicators, including replication time, minimum replicator size, replicator complexity, the exponential mathematics of replication and replicative manufacturing systems, and lots more.
There is a lot of misinformation out there about self-replication (from science fiction claiming to be based on fact, to ramblings by royalty - thank goodness for the Revolution), so it is really nice to see someone cover all the technical details in one place. The authors distinguish self-replication from self-reproduction, and in their discussion of "Replicators and Public Safety" and elsewhere it is clearly explained how to build safe self-replicating machines that cannot continue functioning in the face of variations, and how to mitigate or eliminate entirely the dangers inherent in possible runaway behaviors of successful machine self-replication processes that might be theorized. Reading this book makes you realize that a vast amount of work has already been done, but a great deal more remains to be done. KSRM is a significant landmark along the road to our technological future and urges us to pursue many possible pathways to practical success, including most prominently several approaches to molecular manufacturing involving nanotechnology and molecular assemblers ([...]