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Learning SQL
, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1991. Type: Book (9780135287040)
Date Reviewed: Jun 1 1992

This elementary introduction to Structured Query Language (SQL), the standard interface language for relational databases, is distinguished from other books on SQL in two ways. First, it is truly elementary. The reader is assumed to have little or no background in relational databases, and the treatment of SQL consists of examples and exercises of gradually increasing difficulty. None of the problems are all that difficult, so they provide a gentle introduction for novice readers. In fact, the book does not even cover more advanced queries such as the correlated subquery, although it does include a nodding recognition of their existence.

The second distinguishing feature of this book is that it comes with diskettes that provide what the advertisements claim is “a simulated SQL environment.” I interpreted this to mean an SQL interpreter, which it is not. It is a computer-aided instruction program to reinforce the concepts presented in the book. Maybe I was naïve to believe that you could get a book and an SQL interpreter for the price of an inexpensive book, but I was greatly disappointed to find that the “simulated SQL environment” was just a question-and-answer program.

Perhaps I was already prejudiced against the question-and-answer program, but I found it somewhat frustrating at times although I consider myself to be proficient in SQL. For example, the software requires a semicolon after each SQL statement and reminds you each time you forget. I am used to using Sybase, which does not require a semicolon, and found the constant reminders annoying. In one answer an inequality was required. I tried “!=” and “^=”, neither of which worked. Finally, I got “NOT =” to work, but I felt that the software should have accepted all three. On another example, I got an error message that had little to do with the real error. These are, admittedly, small points, but they can be enormously frustrating to novice SQL programmers who do not know why their answers are not being accepted.

This book does have its merits, but it is difficult to see them through the disappointment caused by the misleading claims of a “simulated SQL environment.” Oh, well. Caveat emptor!

Reviewer:  J. M. Artz Review #: CR115144
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