Wednesday, 13 August 2014

book review: Scala for the Impatient

Cay S. Horstmann.
Scala for the Impatient.
Addison-Wesley. 2012

Python is my current language of choice, but when you are writing something more substantial, having a strongly-typed language helps. One of my colleagues has been enthusing about Scala in general, and this book in particular, so I thought I’d give it a look.

Being not just the impatient of the title, but very impatient, I have frankly skim-read much of the book. Nevertheless, I’m impressed by what I’ve seem, both of the language, and its presentation here. Scala seems to be a well designed and interesting modern language, with many sophisticated and powerful features, but with no burdensome syntactic overheads.

The back-cover blurb offers a good summary of the key features described in the book. Scala compiles down to run on the JVM; it is object-oriented with functional capabilities; it allows mixin-style traits that can contain implementation code; it has support for parsing in general and XML in particular; it has extra support for concurrency through actors (thread-safe concurrent objects); and it has support for continuation programming (proceed with caution!)

The concise and focussed style of the book allows a brisk trot through many language features, whilst still containing a lot of technical meat, all introduced through code snippets. It does assume some knowledge of Java, as several of the examples contrast it with that earlier language.

A good technical read, making me want to try out the language, particularly the actors for complex systems simulations.

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