Centauri Dreams seems to be the result of a personal journey by the author to discover just how close today's technology and research concepts are to realising interstellar travel. Focusing on the first unmanned probe to other stars, Paul Gilster has exhaustively researched every element required in such a journey.
After some consideration of target star systems and WHY we would try such an expensive venture, Much of the book looks at the many types of propulsion systems and then goes on to look at areas such as autonomous navigation, self-repair and even self building. The book contains references to interviews with many of the big players in interstellar research, from various NASA departments to science fiction writers.
The book is an excellent resource for people researching the area, but not for the casual reader. As mentioned it is exhaustive in its description of all the technologies but yet lacks something in the reading. It fails to really bring the subject to life being pure text. Summary tables and even diagrams (such as those found in The Starflight Handbook) of the weighty concepts and technologies would have spurred on interest which otherwise wained in long pages of pure description.
That said it is much more up to date than The Starflight handbook and the authors detailed notes (supplied as an appendix) alone make the book worth buying.
PROS: Very detailed excellent content and notes, quite recent and up to date, talked to the who's-who in the subject.
CONS: Slow reading, even hard going at times, tables and diagrams would have improved
Visionary. This and the accompanying website is for the intellectual. Lots of solid science relating to astrophysics as much as astroengineering by an infirmed and renowned author/journalist. If you havent read this book, you have missed out. Once picked up it is difficult to put down . Easy to understand and notover technical itis an opptimistic view of an exciting future in space.