Top critical review
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Not for complete beginners and imprecise language lets it down
on 21 July 2011
Who is this book aimed at? On the back cover it says "Assuming little or no programming experience". Actually, I disagree with that. It does assume some programming experience, making use of jargon that has not previously been explained, and relying on prior knowledge rather than explaining various topics properly. Really, I would say that this book is best for somebody who has programmed in a language other than Java, and who now wants to learn the basics of Java, covering a broad range of subjects but none in great depth.
In just under 450 pages, it covers subjects such as how to install the Eclipse IDE (Integrated Development Environment), where to find WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) GUI (Graphical User Interface) designers, the fundamentals of the Java language, Applets (applications that run in Internet browsers), generics (if you're going to be implementing generics get another book), simple network programming (for anything non-trivial get another book), the basics of multi-threading (if you're going to be writing multi-threaded code, get a specialist book), databases using JDBC (Java Database Connectivity), Swing (GUIs), RMI (Remote Machine Invocation), servlets (server-side applications), SOAP, Hibernate, etc, etc. Basically, it gets you going in the Java world, and gives an introduction to many of the key technologies that Java developers are likely to encounter. As long as it's treated as a taster to the language and the related technologies, rather than being considered definitive on any of those subjects, then this book may be ok (for people with some experience). Certainly, for an experienced developer who wants to learn Java in a hurry, this book has potential. However, where it falls down is that it uses very imprecise language. Over and over again, as I was reading this book, I was thinking to myself "oh, that could be misinterpreted", "oh, that's misleading", "oh, that's not strictly accurate" or even "oh, that's wrong". An experienced developer who has worked in another language would probably spot those same things and either realise the issue or be doubtful enough to check elsewhere. I'm not convinced that somebody with "little or no programming experience" would recognise these issues, which makes me think of the quote about knowing just enough to be dangerous. This book would have been helped by more thorough proof-reading - far, far too many issues slipped through.
For me, the best aspects of this book are (a) the broad coverage, and (b) the list of interview-related questions near the end. I certainly agree with the author's comments about interviewing enterprise developers. That section alone tells me that the author has been around long enough to "know his stuff". However, knowing his stuff is not the same as being able to convey his knowledge to others, whether absolute beginners or not. Unfortunately, the assumptions that this book makes, and the multiple issues in the language used, let this book down.
I should mention, for sake of completeness, that this book does come with a DVD containing additional teaching material. It may be useful, but I buy books so that I can read them when away from my computer, absorb their content, then try out what I have read when I am back in front of the computer. I therefore haven't looked at the DVD. It may be useful, it may not. I cannot comment.
Oh, and the "24-Hour" in the title is completely misleading. Inside, the book says that it doesn't mean that you can work through the entire book in 24 hours, but that you can have the book with you and be reading it at any time of the day, as if any book without "24-Hour" in the title is something you have to hand back when the sun goes down... Wrox should be ashamed of themselves for putting something that misleading in the title.
Would I recommend this book? Whilst the language is so imprecise, I'm afraid not. If, in a future edition, all of the issues were fixed, then maybe I would recommend that future edition, although still not for absolute beginners.