Network administration, never mind troubleshooting, is a dry, sometimes airless subject. As the cliche goes, computer networks may be more than the sum of their parts, but the only people who fully appreciate that have handled all the parts. Communication protocols, command protocols, wire protocols, internet protocols, data link management, router configuration, IP traffic management, firewall administration....Where mathematics or intricate programming techniques daze the disinclined mind, computer networking bludgeons it.
Lucas promotes his subject by motivating the imagination, not the intellect. As he writes in his introduction, "Network administrators all share an abiding and passionate desire for just one thing. We want our users to shut up." I for one can tell you where I was working and the problems I was dealing with when I first felt exactly that. And from that point on, the book flows neatly from one point to the next. The topic sequence, consistent tone and focus kept me engaged and confident that I could go as far as I'd like, with this book as a start.
To achieve that effect for me, a book has to look and feel manageable in a reasonable amount of time. Network Flow Analysis is about two hundred pages long, but it is hardly thin. The pace of discussion is deliberate but covers a lot of ground. As for continuity, I can't recall a passage that wasn't supported by earlier discussion or wasn't detailed soon after. Lucas narrates in a straightforward manner that does not succumb easily to distraction or concern for losing the reader. Where most authors tackle the subject with a compendium of summations or mostly-digested specifications, Lucas exhibits the guileless courage of someone who spends every day on a roof or under a sink. And he does something most network admin writers could learn to do for all our sakes: he uses a reference book for all the detail.
The only surprise I found in this book came in Chapter 8, "Ad Hoc Flow Visualization," where Lucas writes, "gnuplot ... has a notoriously steep learning curve and a reputation for complexity." Even though the rest of the paragraph softens this claim a bit, I bought and read a book on gnuplot to make sure I hadn't missed something.
Network Flow Analysis is not a book that would inspire a Dummies-identifying reader to have a go, I don't think. No such book will ever be written. But if troubleshooting the network becomes your job, and you need more than a kickstart, and you do want to shut people up, you need a friend. You could do far worse than start here.