Published in 2002, this is the illustrated version of the previous edition; it was a series of seven lectures, the titles of which constitue the chapter headings:
Ideas About the Universe The Expanding Universe Black Holes Black Holes ain't so Black Origin and Fate of the Universe The Direction of Time The Theory of Everything
In his usual lucid, succinct style, he explores and explains aspects of many of the most challenging areas of physics. He has always had the ability to render the complex into words accessible to the "normal" man.
"So long as the universe had a beginning that was a singularity, one could suppose that it was created by an outside agency. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would be neither created nor destroyed. It would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?" (P 126)
One may not agree with all his ideas, but he is certainly thought-provoking going where few men have gone before and he is unafraid "to boldly go".
If you enjoy reading up on science but feel that you're at a point of understanding where it appears to be too complex then you must buy this book. The whole theories behind space and time are laid out on the pages with added help of illustrations where necessary. Starting the book in layman's terms, the chapters progress to become more and more advanced and before you know it, you completely understand the basics behind the history of our universe. If facts are what you're into, then this is a must!
Having already read The Universe in a Nutshell, and A Briefer History of Time, I was disappointed that this book did little to offer new, or more simplified, explanations of many of the key concepts of Hawking and friends. The description of the book as 'The Illustrated" was also a letdown as it contains less effective illustrations than The Universe in a Nutshell. Neither does the book stand on it's own for new readers to Hawking. I'm afraid Hawking still assumes that the average reader understands things like quantum mechanics and basic astrophysics when giving us his explanations of such things as the concept of space time, or string theory. I'm not sure who the book is pitched at.