For much of this book, I was sitting at a fairly solid three stars. Well-written, but just not my thing. Too many unlikeable characters, and too much casual 50s sexism. And then there's a dose of instalove, to round it out. But the ending is fantastic, enough to take this nearly to a four star book for me. Nearly.
There are really fantastic science fiction concepts in here. The main focus is jaunting, a form of instantaneous teleportation. Bester did a good job of thinking through the societal implications of jaunting, and did a good job building a world shaped by that and corporate clannishness. And the end is brilliant, and admirably open.
Except... I would definitely call this a product of its time. As I said, there's the sort of casual sexism that I don't find unexpected in a book written in the early 50s, but is still a little disappointing in a book set in the future. Here, it's a little more complicated than that. The elite in Bester's world do keep women isolated in a sort of Victorian harem, but I get the impression that he doesn't approve of this arrangement. The only female character who's kept so isolated is ultimately ruined by it.
And I do think that he was trying to write strong female characters. But they are still very much defined by their relationships with men, and Bester does seem a little in awe that they actually are strong women. (Who'd have thought!) This is especially glaring in the case of Robin, who Bester can't stop reminding us is black. She's a great character, and mostly very well-written, but it seems like Bester just couldn't get over the fact that he managed to write a strong, black, female character. Fair for its day, sure, but dated and grating now.
That said, this is an action-packed read with concepts that still make it a fairly innovative read. It's to Bester's credit that the issues of sexism aren't any worse, and using largely unlikeable characters is a bold move at any time.