What it is: A great introduction to basic concepts in contemporary compilers.
What it's not: A handbook for someone thrown in at the deep end of commercial compiler development.
I can imagine a very good one-term course in compiler construction built around this text. After a brief introduction, it gets immediately into the classic topics of lexical scanning, parsing, and syntax analysis. These three chapters help any beginner understand the multiple levels of processing, from the character level, up through reorganizing grammars for practical parsing and table-driven techniques, to the lower levels of sematic analysis. This includes a very brief discussion of type systems and type inference - less than 20 pages, on a topic that whole books devote themselves to. These 200 pages typify what you'll see in the rest of the book: a lot of attention paid to lexical analysis, a problem largely eliminated by automated tools (lex and yacc being the best known), and thin mention of the harder problems that differ significantly across languages and applications of languages.
Chapter 5 addresses the critical issue of intermediate representation, the data structures that represent the program during analysis, optimization, and code generation. Chapter 6 is titled "The Procedure Abstraction." It deals with much more than its name suggests, including procedure activation records (generalizations of stack frames), parameter passing, stack management, symbol visibility and scoping, and scraps of symbol table organization - important stuff, but hard to understand as "procedure abstaction." The next chapter deals with "Code Shape," a grab-bag including value representations, arrays and strings, control constructs, and procedures (again). It also presents a very few pages, at the end, on object oriented language - hardly enough to scratch the surface, let alone build competence. And, for lack of a better place to stick them, I would have expected support for parallelism and exceptions to appear here, but this book seems to omit the topics altogether.
Code analysis and optimization appear in chapters 8-10. That includes a competent introduction to static single assignment notation, a staple of current compiler technology mentioned earlier, in the section on intermediate representation. This covers a range of basics, but omits all significant mention of arrays, the workhorses of performance computing. Chapters 11-13 introduce the basics of instruction selection, scheduling, and register allocation. Although it mentions some hardware effects, like out-of-order execution in superscalar architecture, discussion stays close the instruction sets of popular processors. As a result, it omits mention of SIMD, VLIW, DSP, and more exotic architectures, the ones most in need of good code generation. Compiler-specific support libraries, e.g. the kind that make up for lack of hardware divide instructions, should have appeared somewhere around here, but are oddly absent.
The authors present an adequate introduction for the beginner, someone who's still not sure what a hash table is (see appendix B). It introduces many basic topics, but doesn't go into a lot of depth in any of them. The student who finishes this book will understand most major issues of classical compiler construction. I just can't see a serious, working competence coming out of this text, though. I give it four stars as an academic introduction, but a lot less for anyone with immediate problems to solve.