Book Information
Title: Flash Math Creativity
Author: Manny Tan, Jamie Macdonald, et al.

Published by: Friends Of Ed.
RRP: USD $49.99 (Less at Amazon)
Format: Mass-market paperback
User Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Review By: Stephen (Red Penguin, ActionScript.org)

At a glance: 10/10

What a great book!

Review:

Well, well, well, what a title! This book is stunning visually and is just oozing with inspiration. Opening it and reading the forward tells us that this is a book for our pleasure. The Flash community as a whole. This is a book intended to show us what this community has been able to come up in terms of creation and allows us to poke around with the code. If you like to take a basic principle and see it evolve given enough time and interest, then this is the book for you. If you enjoy seeing "how" things function rather than "why" they work, you have the opportunity to tinker and toy with the variables to see exactly "how" it changes the overall look of the final piece. Oh yeah, and there is the Math stuff too....

We are expected to understand the basics of ActionScripting as well as understanding the techniques common in most projects. Not to deter the beginner as you will surely learn MUCH!

The book is laid out pretty straightforward. Fifteen chapters with each one dedicated to a certain individual and he goes through each of his creations and iterations. I didn't find myself actually starting at the beginning as I have my favorites and quickly jumped to that particular chapter. Suggested reading by the people at Friends of Ed was to grab the source files, run them, and THEN read the chapters. Some of them are adequately commented so in some, the book isn't even needed! That is not to say, however, that this book is not necessary to understand what's going on! The book gives you quick insight to the authors' mindset and thinking (invaluable info...), and each chapter begins with an overview of where they are from, what they do, how they have come to do this, and interests (cheese - the food kind...).

They mentioned that there are two parts to the book and I guess you might call it that (the second starts where the first one leaves off, in case you were wondering...) if you consider that the last three chapters have what you'd consider an "application" or an "engine" for viewing the creations and being able to manipulate directly. These are some pretty amazing apps people! I, for one, preferred the first part, but then, that is me. I enjoyed finding a variable, which for the most part are explained in the book, and changing it to my liking, viewing the results, reviewing the code, and then saying," Jeez! that's what that does!" Two weeks and I still haven't finished going through all those files. And at the end of the book, we are given a Tangents page which gives us 54 links (many of which have "math" in the URL) to explore!

So, I guess you are wondering where the Math fits in. It's all in there but sometimes, we are not presented with the reasons for using "128" for variable "p" to multiply by var "b" which has the value of "14". I often was left scratching my head asking why, but that isn't the point. Sine and Cosine (used in just about each chapter in some way...) are presented quite clearly in the first chapter and there is a terrific example from Gabriel Mulzer but if you are looking to the find the mysteries behind using atan2 to get an angle, this book will not answer those questions. It is up to you to play the part of explorer/reader/magician to find those answers. We are presented with a fine wealth of methods that people use,inspiration, experiments that we are even encouraged to break. We are given a chance to use them to have fun and use them as springboards to get out that creativity that lurks in each and every one of us.

So, to end this rant, if you enjoy going through code with a fine toothed comb and if you want to pick up valuable techniques for doing certain things with Flash, as well as be dazzled from some of the innovators of our time, get the book. It is the perfect culmination of what Flash 5 ActionScripting can do and with this, we can all be sure that the next one will be even more engaging given the recent release of Flash MX! And now you can be in it.