I got this book after seeing it at the Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, and thought I'd enjoy the subject matter, especially since I'd particularly liked the author's Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors. I wasn't exactly disappointed with the book, since I learned a lot about the gun battles of Guadalcanal, but it was frequently unclear exactly what was going on during battles (to be fair, that's probably because it was unclear exactly what was going on) and it lacked a lot not having as detailed coverage of the carrier battles and of the story of the Marines on the ground.
What did come across in particular was that the Marines' complaints about the Navy's role during the campaign were not limited to Fletcher's pulling out two days after the landings. They were, in fact, unhappy with the way the rest of the fleet was supporting the landings, not just the carriers in the first days. That was made clear by how elated the author says they they were when the cruisers and destroyers provided tactical support by shelling Japanese positions on the island. The book did also explain why the Pearl Harbor battleships were not on station off Guadalcanal to support the landings throughout the fall, as the Japanese battleships of the same era eventually were - it was because Nimitz didn't have the oilers to deploy the battleships. They sat on the West Coast because the Navy didn't have the logictical capability to operate them thousands of miles from their bases. What oiler capacity there was was badly stretched taking care of the carrier and cruiser task forces, and the only battleships that reached the scene were the new fast battleships Washington, North Carolina, and South Dakota, and those only because they were helping protect the carriers.
Speaking of which, I also did not realize how against doctrine it was to send the battleships into the restricted waters of Ironbottom Sound. It seemed like the logical thing to do, especially when the carriers they were protecting dwindled to one. That Halsey's doing this was not simply the obvious change from what Ghormley had not been doing had not occurred to me. I also didn't realize that the outcome of the one battleship action fought was not as obvious as it seemed. After all, this was two battleships against one - outcome is obvious, right? Well, no. The South Dakota was knocked out of action almost immediately by mechanical problems and was essentially just a punching bag from then on. Had the Japanese attacked using torpedoes - why they did is not clear - bringing battleships into the narrow waters at night would have been catastrophic for her at least, with no countervailing benefit. The reason that engagement was won was because Admiral Lee in the other battleship, the Washington, had that ship trained to use radar directed fire, and when the engagement began he used that proficiency to demolish the Japanese battleship. But a really interesting engagement both in terms of the decision to engage by Halsey, and the good and bad things that happened on the ships that did engage.
A good book, but a bit muddy. Not the elegant one-volume account of the naval side of Guadalcanal that I was hoping for, but I think that's more because the story can't be told adequately without including more of the land side of the battle as well.