This book tries to introduce the breadth of changes between versions 1.3 and 1.4 - with full chapters on the New I/O, XML processing and cryptography. Shorter compound chapters work through the GUI and utility changes. The chapter on language changes (the addition of assertions) is preceded confusingly with one on changes a lot of us would have liked to have seen (type-safe enumerations and generics) but have not made it into this release.
The exposition is clear and some background is given to all the topics that are useful if the inclusion of a technology in 1.4 will be your first real introduction to that technology. This is especially true with the XML and cryptography sections. The section on I/O, while sufficiently detailed may only interest those who have a specialist need in the area. The retention of a self-contained parallel package of old I/O classes and the enormous body of legacy code probably means that the new advantages will not be exploited.
Code examples are included throughout - for the most part interwoven with the text so you have to download the examples from Wrox to see them in full.
As this book covers the Standard Edition of the Java platform - there is little here on the many changes happening in the wider platform, hence the focus on core technologies that are essential for networked applications. No detailed material on Sun's emerging Web Services platform though for example the XML additions are put in the context of those developments.
Working in commercial organizations, I would like to have seen more on the very real issues of deployment, and although there is much material on exercising API features, it does not attempt to address improving programming style and patterns.
While not providing as much material and cross-referencing as a well-wrought website might have provided, this book is a good narrative to read yourself into the major changes 1.4 brings to J2SE. It's not a reference guide, but there are plenty of those around.