Monday, March 12, 2018

"Mastering Assembly Programming" - the review

I have recently been contacted by one of my respected readers, who has not only purchased the book but also offered to write a review once he is done reading it. Given the fact that, by now, I have not received much feedback on the book at all, I agreed, although felt a bit uncomfortable. After all, this is my first book and the only reviews I saw this far were those written by the editorial staff and the technical reviewer, getting one from a reader was rather exciting.

For some reasons (still unknown to us) it was not possible to publish the review on publisher's website as the option just disappeared, therefore, I am posting it here having the kind permission to do so from Mr. Tristano Ajmone - the author of the review. 

(The review has been originally posted as a comment on my Google+ page here


10/10, because this book lives up to its promises. It's a pragmatic book by a pragmatic author. Lyashko proves himself an expert guide into the land of Assembly language; all along the journey he's always focused on the reader, on how to make his journey of exploration comfortable and profitable.

It's not the usual academic book, and it's not the usal course or manual either: Lyashko never takes the stance of the professor speaking from the high pulpit of academy, and it doesn't take the one-morsel-at-the-time approach either. The experience of this book is not that of speaking about Assembly: it's about entering the land of Assembly and finding a local guide to welcome you.

Like a native who loves his land, Lyashko warmly welcomes you to the esotic land of Assembly and makes you feel comfortably at home right from the onset. He provides you the right equipment for the journey, and dives you head-on into a guided tour of the land. Each trip (or chapter) has a specific goal to it, and as you walk toward it Lyashko shows you the surroundings, explains the history of the places you walk by, the local traditions, the anecdotes; and by time you reach your destination you no longer feel a stranger in a strangeland, you feel at home — and even if you don't yet speak the native language, you start to make sense of its sounds, to see patterns of speech emerge, you begin to reckognize isolated words and sentences. All of a sudden, the journey seems less scarier, it's turning into a thrilling adventure, and the dream of becoming a citizen of Assembly land seems an achievable goal.

The leap from high-level languages to Assembly is a huge one. No single book could ever bridge fully across this gap. At the mother-board level there are no alibis: you can't abstract away from the building blocks of the machinery. It's a very thin edge for a student to walk over, and for the authors the risk is always between extermes: providing to many details or to little, too much theory or to little. It takes a novel approach to solve these ancient dilemmas, and I believe this book does an excellent job at providing the right balance of theory and practice. But most of all, it takes a certain type of author too.

I belong to the old school, and I strongly believe that what really counts in programming is the method — nothing but the method. This book gave me method: where all I could see before where technical data and isolated tools scattered on the workbench, now I've seen a good example of how the master craftsman employs these tools in the art.

As an avid reader, I've come across too many books where competent authors failed to relate directly to their readers. The subject at matter is never as important as the gap that separates the reader from the subject itself. Programming books are always written for competent people (and it would be offensive to suggest otherwise), so it's never an issue of having to teach again the alphabet from scratch to reader; it's about filling the gap between what the reader already knows and how his knowledge has to adpat and relate to the new subject at hand. Lyashko is clearly a good teacher, he knows what Assembly newbies need in order to jump on the running wagon and get going; he knows the right balances and measures required to feed the reader's desire to learn and at the same time keep his appetite alive — avoiding an indegestion of theory, or tech-jargon poisoning.

At the end of the day, every introductiory book to Assembly has to cover the same topics (and this book is no execption). What makes the difference between a good and ejoyable book and a boring and over-complex text is the author's skills as a teacher. And I'm truely impressed by Alexey Lyashko's pedagogy: it's fresh, innovative, pragmatic, and speaks to the reader as peers do: by putting himself in the reader's shoes, he's able to relate at the same level of the reader, and raise him up all the way to the master's level — which is the promise of this book.

We all have to stand on the shoulders of giants to encompass new horizons. "Mastering Assembly Programming" gently lifts us from the barren grounds and places us on the giant's shoulders, allowing us the see the promised land of Assembly with our own eyes. Like any other journey, teachers can only take us so far by hand, then we have to carry on with our own legs — to expect more would be a mistake on the student's side, to expect less would be an unforgivable mistake on the teacher's side. Lyashko is guilty of none, for he has fulfilled his promise to the reader.

Tristano Ajmone (Italy)

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