Several years ago I spent some time trying to encourage a couple of the better publishers of books on C++ that what we needed was something akin to the books that you find on Chess or Bridge where individual books in a series will focus on a single aspect of the game (minor piece and pawn endgames, opening leads etc.). I like to think that the C++ In-Depth Series is, if only unconscious, Addison-Wesley's response to that advice.
This is the latest book in this series and fully justifies its inclusion. By the way, unlike some series where the official series editor is just a marketing ploy, Bjarne Stroustrup takes his job very seriously and getting a title into this series is no easy task. You do not only have to persuade Addison-Wesley that your book has merit, you also have to convince the main man that your C++ is worthy of his commendation. It would take a very courageous reviewer to argue with the technical quality of the contents. Fortunately my courage has not been put to the test yet.
This book is a collaboration between Douglas Schmidt, the original designer of ACE (Adaptive Communications Environment) which is a multi-platform open source framework aimed at those developing complicated distributed systems, and Stephen Huston who has had over five years experience providing technical support and consulting services to users of ACE. If you think about that you may come to the conclusion that this is an ideal combination, the person who knows how it was designed to work and someone who knows what problems users have. You would be right.
If you want to understand the problems and requirements of applications that must run over distributed networks this book will give you a good introduction. If you then decide that you want to tackle these problems with C++, then do two things. First collect the source code from http://ace.edi.uci.edu or from http://www.riverace.com (who will also sell you a compiled version for most popular platforms) and then get a copy of this book. Now set aside considerable time to study. You will not find instant gratification form either the source code or the book, but nothing that is worthwhile comes without effort. The authors have done their best to make the learning process easy but we are dealing with tough problems. If you start now you will just about have consolidated your knowledge in time for the second volume (if you want to jump thegun, the drafts for several chapters are available on the web.
To summarise: if you need (or just want) to know about network programming, C++ is your choice language and you have the time to study then this book is where to start.