Top critical review
25 of 27 people found this helpful
Very useful but sloppy and verbose
on August 31, 2000
If/when there is an SQL-99 edition of "SQL--The Standard Handbook" by Cannan & Otten, forget about this book. Cannan & Otten's book about SQL-92 is clearer and better organised. I'd have been lost in this book had I not read Cannan & Otten first.
Content editing is sloppy. For example, we learn on p62 that unary + changes the sign of an operand. On p67, we are given an improved arithmetic expression which computes something completely different from its original. On p61, we are given a recipe for rounding that doesn't work for negative numbers. And so it goes.
One thing Gulutzan & Pelzer provide but Cannan & Otten didn't is a free SQL system. I have accounts/access to seven different machines with five different CPUs and six different operating systems, but the software does not run on any of them, so I cannot review the software.
Neither, for that matter, do the HTML files work. In a typical piece of sloppiness, the file names on the disc are like "appb.htm" but the references inside the files are like "appB.html". I had to copy all the HTML files and rename them before they were browsable.
In a book this size internal cross-references need to be very good. Modern SGML-based publishing technology makes it easy to produce excellent internal links. This book could be better, and as it is a reference book, it really should be better.
A trap for young players: in 1997 I found that a major vendor who claimed SQL 92 conforrmance was being economical with the truth. They conformed to the SQL 89 subset of SQL 92, but on fairly basic things like VARCHAR fields, did not conform. It will be a while before we can rely on some of the new stuff in SQL 99 being available. Just because there is something useful described in the book, don't expect to be able to use it yet. The advice about what is in the Core and what is not is *VERY* useful.
Producing this book must have been an enormous amount of work, and despite my whinging, it will save its readers an enormous amount of work trying to make sense of a rather prolix and complex standard.