This book assumes that the reader knows J2EE and XML and intends is to show how Java technologies can be used to manipulate XML. I am writing this review in 2004, and the book is a little dated, however most of the information is still current and when the authors expected major changes to occur this is clearly pointed out.
The book starts with a rather lengthy overview of distributed systems and J2EE development. The second chapter is partly an introduction to XML. The discussion quickly becomes java-centered, with the second chapter discussing all the java APIs JDOM, JAXP, etc. By this point, all the prerequisites have been covered, and chapter 3 covers the persistence of XML, and the various options open to the developer - files, databases, and so on.
The book next discusses application integration, through a web services example using SOAP. The sample code is remarkably concise, and shows what can be done with Java and XML when they are used properly. When a subject comes up, it is covered well - Web Services Description Language (WSDL) comes up in this chapter, and is covered there and then. This makes the book easier to read from cover-to-cover.
Once the main XML issues are out of the way chapter 5 covers user interfaces, using an example based on a JSP servlet using XSLT to filter the results. It is well explained and I was left feeling that developing a complex application can be very simple if the correct decisions are taken when architecting the project.
The final chapter covers a complete case study encompassing most stages of a project, and again shows the experience of the authors.
Unfortunately, book related web site appears to be neglected. I placed a comment on it, and there was no reply in nearly three weeks. I did manage to download the source, however - a whopping 2.5 megabytes in a zip file.
At some places I found the text incredibly boring and I had to shake myself and reread a paragraph. It is difficult to explain why - I appreciate the conciseness of the book, and everything said is relevant, but occasionally the writing style seems to put the reader to sleep.
As a developer, I appreciate the book for its conciseness and breadth. Repetition is rarely apparent and the examples show exactly what is required with very little window dressing. The result is that this book is like a roadmap - it shows you where you can go with XML, giving you enough information to get there but avoiding the details, such as the exact layout of every junction. If you know Java, and you know XML but have never used the two together, or if you lack the knowledge or experience to choose an approach with authority, then this book will really help.
If you buy this book because you need to know what it tells you, then you will probably have to buy more books later. If you are not familiar with the APIs you choose, then you will need a reference manual or a guide to get the best from them. The examples in the book are concise and show you exactly what to do for the sample, but a real-life project will require more than just a few APIs.