Yeah I'm glad they incorporated Python into Maya as it is a powerful language and is incorporated into loads of things now - I used to play Eve-online and it was good to hear that they use it lots in that.
The actual catalyst to using Python and not Mel was because I still do a little work at my old job writing custom elements for a Content Management System called Plone - and it is written in Python
I also had a play with Mel and once you know a C style language (PHP in my case) then it is real easy to pick up and use.
No books, it was all online (and therefore free)
I just visited the Python website and started reading a few things in the beginners section http://wiki.python.org/moin/BeginnersGuide/
and guess what? I even went through the good old hello world stuff
Still havent gone through tuples and dictionaries yet tho..
If you want to rip out the UI code and have a play with it then please do - it is really quite straightforward, the only problems I had was that some of the options/methods dont seem as clear as in Mel but thats probably because its newer. There are comments in the code that might help understand it a bit better.
Some kind of caching is definitely the next step as realtime playback can be really bad if there are lots of boids/objects