REVIEW - Who's Afraid of Java?


Who's Afraid of Java?


Steve Heller



Morgan Kaufmann Pub (1997)




Francis Glassborow


December 1998



I am reviewing these two books together because they are by the same author and share a good deal in their approach. A couple of years ago Steve Heller produced an excellent book aimed at programming novices using a very restricted subset of C++ as the programming language. The book was titled Who's Afraid of C++ . It was generally well received and deservedly so. I had two main criticisms; I did not think that the material and approach supported the authors claim to be teaching object-oriented programming, I did not think that the book had much to offer experienced programmers. Any truth in its usefulness to those with even a modicum of experience is more a comment on the abysmal standard exhibited by many earning their living as programmers.

One major feature of the original book was that every piece of text went through the hands of a genuine novice programmer, Susan Spiro, a nurse by profession. One result of the closeness that developed over the nine months it took to write the first book was that their collaboration over the Internet eventually matured to the stage that they got married in June 1997. In fact Who's Afraid of Java was written just prior to their marriage.

Now you may begin to wonder how Susan could retain her qualification as a novice. In simple terms she hasn't. Much of the novice type questions have been cut from the first C++ text into the Java one. Susan's direct input to the Java text has been largely that of an inexperienced but well taught C++ programmer looking at Java for the first time. However if you read the first book I do not think that the second one has enough to offer to make it worth ploughing through the repeated material.

The author's view of Java is more balanced than most. He recognises that Java has both positive and negative aspects. He views Java as a programming language rather than as the solution to all problems. Interestingly Susan has some rather negative views to express about some aspects of Java. I have a sense that she would choose C++ rather than Java as a first language, but that may be because it is easier to use a strict subset of C++ when you first start, and that subset does not require you think in an OO way.

By contrast Who's Afraid of More C++ is a continuation of the previous C++ book. There is a little overlap to help bring the reader up to speed but it then progresses into those aspects of C++ that allow a modicum of object-orientation. At the end you will still be far from being a C++ expert however you will have served the first half of your apprenticeship and will be a much better practitioner than many who are paid to program. (My wife does all the wall-papering in our house. She does it better than many who claim it as a trade. She would never want to make her living doing it because she knows that the genuine expert would do it much faster and better and knows all sorts of things that she does not.) There is more to programming than you will learn from any of Heller's books but that does not mean that his books will not teach you more than most.

I have some reservations for the future. He says that he has converted from being a programmer who wrote a book to being a writer about programming. I believe that means that his shelf life as a writer about specific languages is severely limited. The art/craft of programming is changing and if you leave the work-force you risk falling out of date. Next, he will need to find another novice tester and that might prove harder because Susan knows what can result. Third, I wish he would keep religion out of his books. Authors can acknowledge whomever they want to but they should realise that some acknowledgements will have a negative impact on some potential readers. Steve is entitled to his opinion of L Ron Hubbard but he must know that many others do not share it. I find it hard to believe that Hubbard's writings contributed anything to Who's Afraid of Java

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

Your Privacy

By clicking "Accept All Cookies" you agree ACCU can store cookies on your device and disclose information in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

By clicking "Share IP Address" you agree ACCU can forward your IP address to third-party sites to enhance the information presented on the site, and that these sites may store cookies on your device.