I was amazed at the popularity of Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" in 1998. Not because it was not a great book, but because the average reader's background in relativity, quantum mechanics, and cosmology is limited to their discussion in Star Trek. The last few chapters of that book were pretty heavy going, and I suspect that most of the legions of Hawking "readers" did not really plow through to the end. Happily, there is no examination on "A Brief History of Time" required for the purchase of this new volume. This one is not easy going either, and one's brane (not a misspelling) can get bent in trying to accommodated multidimensional spacetime continua. However, the understanding of "Nutshell" is greatly facilitated by the marvelous illustrations by Moonrunner Design Ltd and The Book Laboratory, and spiced by the occasional wit of the author, that arises in unexpected places. This is an intellectual tour de force, made as accessible as it can be to the lay reader. Those who want to read more may find useful the the May 24, 2002 special "Spacetime" issue of Science , which is readable online by subscribers.