Customer Review

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great coverage but love it or loath it style., 13 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Land of Lisp: Learn to Program in Lisp, One Game at a Time! (Paperback)
Land Of Lisp: Learn to Program in Lisp, One Game at a Time!
Conrad Barski M.D.

To be fair to the author, I'm going to split this review into three sections; Lisp, content and style.

1. Lisp

Lisp is venerable language, having been kicking around in various forms since 1958. The fact that it's lasted that long and is now having something of a resurgence is testament to power and flexibility. Lisp has always been strongly associated with the artificial intelligence community and I suspect that it's resurgence is linked to increased interest in semantic technologies. OK so it's a powerful expressive language however I'm not sure that anyone could claim that is an easy language to learn. If your coming from a procedural or object oriented background you're likely to find getting your head around Lisp particularly challenging. I've no functional programming experience but I suspect that if you come from a functional background you may find Lisp slightly easier. The programming paradigm isn't the only difficulty in learning Lisp though, the syntax and function names can be somewhat arcane as well. So why learn Lisp then - well it's powerful, expressive and of course you could be working on a Lisp project or just want to expand your programming repertoire which is never a bad thing.

2. Content

As you might expect from a 500 page book the coverage of Land Of Lisp has impressive coverage of the language. The book, as you might have guessed from the subtitle, is largely based around a series of simple games that are used as exemplars of Lisp function and programming techniques. These are interspersed with chapters focused on specific topics such as lambda functions, macros, functional programming and domain specific languages. In terms of content what is desperately missing is an appendix of Lisp functions. Commands tend to be introduced in sections of code and associated descriptions which are not terribly easy to refer back to when you want to refresh your memory on the syntax of a given function.

3. Style.

The writing style is going to be a bit of marmitish, you're either going to love it or find it utterly frustrating. A definite attempt has been made to make the text interesting and engaging; unfortunately it really doesn't work for me. I found the text much too verbose and actually got in the way of understanding rather than enhancing it. Yes the cartoons and geek in-jokes were fun but in the end I found the text more frustrating than enlightening. Now I'm fully prepared to admit that this is much more to do with me than anything else - when I sit down to try and learn a topic I prefer it to be presented in a clear, concise, text-booky manner rather than an over-wordy prose manner. For anyone considering buying this book, I would seriously advise taking a look at Conrad Barski's original website Casting SPELs In Lisp ([...]). If the style works for you then go grab the book straight away. If however it doesn't entirely work for you may well find that after 500 pages it becomes rather grating.
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