I couldn't see the point of this book. My first disappointment was the confession in the preface that the title has little connection to the subject matter. The book is indeed brief (the main text being just 136 spaciously set pages), and it is about ancient astrology; but Beck confesses that his 'history' "will actually be something less ambitious, more in the nature of an account of various aspects of the subject". This account is to be centred "on the system itself, how horoscopes were constructed and interpreted", with the claim that "depth and detail" has been chosen over "breadth of coverage".
This is fair enough, except that depth and detail tend to be built upon a secure knowledge of basic principles, and for much of this book the reader is assumed to be a complete novice to the subject. A great deal of the text is therefore given to explaining what the basic principles are, why the signs of the zodiac are not the same as constellations, what the zodiac is, how geometrical shapes connect the aspects, the importance of diurnal revolution, the four angles of the figure, the meaning of the 12 places [houses], and an introduction to the seven planets.
Perhaps "Ancient Astrology for Dummies" would have been a better title? This is the kind of book that passes so superficially over intricate and essential principles that it is likely to leave the novice bewildered and the more informed reader feeling cheated of the content promised in the title. The introduction to technique is either inadequate or redundant, depending upon the reader's prior knowledge. And sadly, for the most part, the promised "depth and detail" are lacking. What we get instead is an overly complex treatment of some elementary concepts that are laboured far beyond reason.
On the basis of an inappropriate title and misleading marketing, I believed that I was purchasing a book that would present a reliable and scholarly overview of the origin and development of astrological techniques in the ancient world. I was very disappointed. The first three chapters touch upon some historical details, but so lightly as to be completely pointless. The history of transmission 'Via Egypt', for example, is neatly wrapped up in less than two pages. I think that says everything a reader needs to know.