You're correct, when the target policy $\pi$ is deterministic, the importance sampling ratio will be $\geq 1$ along the trajectory where the behaviour policy $b$ happened to have taken the same actions that $\pi$ would have taken, and turns to $0$ as soon as $b$ makes one "mistake" (selects an action that $\pi$ would not have selected).
Before importance sampling is introduced in the book, I believe the only off-policy method you will have seen is one-step $Q$-learning, which can only propagate observations back along exactly one step. With the importance sampling ratio, you can often do a bit better. You're right, there is a risk that it turns to $0$ rather quickly (especially when $\pi$ and $b$ are very different from each other), at which point it essentially "truncates" your trajectory and ignores all subsequent experience... but that still can be better than one-step, there is a chance that the ratio will remain $1$ for at least a few steps. It will occasionally still only permit $1$-step returns, but also sometimes $2$-step returns, sometimes $3$-step returns, etc., which is often better than only having $1$-step returns.
Whenever the importance sampling ratio is not $0$, it can also give more emphasis to the observations resulting from trajectories that would be common under $\pi$, but are uncommon under $b$. Such trajectories will have a ratio $> 1$. Emphasizing such trajectories more can be beneficial, because they don't get experienced often under $b$, so without the extra emphasis it can be difficult to properly learn what would have happened under $\pi$.
Of course, it is also worth noting that your quote says (emphasis mine):
The target policy $\pi$ [...] may be deterministic [...]
It says that $\pi$ may be deterministic (and in practice it very often is, because we very often take $\pi$ to be the greedy policy)... but sometimes it won't be. The entire approach using the importance sampling ratio is well-defined also for cases where we choose $\pi$ not to be deterministic. In such situations, we'll often be able to propagate observations over significantly longer trajectories (although there is also a risk of excessive variance and/or numeric instability when $b$ selects actions that are highly unlikely according to $b$, but highly likely according to $\pi$).