Who's Afraid of Java?

Who's Afraid of Java? - the WWW version

ISBN: 0-12-339101-6

Copyright 1997, 1996 by AP Professional

Copyright 2000, 1997, 1996 by Chrysalis Software Corporation

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Steve and Susan Heller have given a new meaning to the cliche "labor of love". By the time you read this book, I expect to have danced at their wedding. That ceremony will make a perfect symbol of what this book is and why I care about it -- and why I think you will, too.

The best technical books marry the expertise of a technical expert with the curiosity and eagerness of a novice. Books like this do not merely recite facts and approaches; they challenge. They motivate. They are even (what a concept!) fun to read. Because so much technical tutorial writing is boring, pretentious, and constipated in style, it is easy to forget these books exist.

But every once in a while a book like Who's Afraid of Java? comes along and reminds us that the very best technical books are discoveries in both knowledge and joy.

Tutorial books this good are very hard to write. The people who write them are, after all, experts. It takes a very difficult mental effort to abandon that expertise, to see their fields through a novice's eyes. It takes an even more taxing effort to hold the expert and novice viewpoints in one mind simultaneously. The wonder isn't that really good technical tutorials by one author are so rare, it's that they exist at all.

Perhaps the ideal team for a good technical book is one expert and one highly motivated novice. But collaboration has its own perils. The partners have to be compatible. They have to understand each other. They have to work to resolve differences. They have to be committed to making the relationship work. It's not unlike being...married.

Susan was Steve's novice. They collaborated on this book as they did on Who's Afraid of C++?. Her questions in the text are lucid, penetrating, unafraid. They're the right questions to support a novice reader struggling through the unavoidable complexities of the exposition.

The dialogue between them -- both intelligent, both able writers, gives this book an almost unique strength. Susan stimulates Steve to address the novice viewpoint without ever having to abandon his natural voice as an expert. The sympathy between them shows; and it invites the reader almost irresistibly into the conversation and the sense of intellectual intimacy it creates.

(Oh, yes. If it's not obvious from the foregoing, this book works technically, too. It's a thorough and concise treatment of its topics. I differ with Steve's opinions about Java sometimes, but his facts are reliable.)

Steve and I have been friends since long before either of us were successful authors; we know each other well. After Who's Afraid of Java? I feel like I know Susan's personality nearly as well. What they've done together is a delight and an astonishment.

I look forward to more books from these two, perhaps Who's Afraid of the World Wide Web? I look forward to meeting Susan at their wedding in June 1997. And I'll have just two things to say to Steve as I shake his hand afterwards:

  1. Keep this one, she's good for you!
  2. Are you going to put her name on the cover next time?

Eric Raymond

Malvern, Pa.

May 1997

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