What first reads like a tight noir mystery of a dead woman who won't stay dead, an American soldier paying the price for binge drinking and hooking up with the soon to be victim, quickly escalates into one of the biggest "big-idea" science fiction novels of all time.
Not only are the science fiction ideas beyond the leading edge, but van Vogt's descriptions of future culture are eerily accurate.
Written in 1953, this novel describes:
the electronic cigarette
a sub-culture of nomadic "Floaters" who, like today's snowbird RV community, roam the countryside in flying mobile homes, living off the land, avoiding taxes and packing "spitters," small pistols that foreshadowed the Star Trek phaser
a culture war between the reality manipulating Shadows and the Tweeners, young urbanites who can't qualify for a job in Shadow City and so seek to destroy it.
As science fiction's "idea man," van Vogt packed this novel with concepts that influenced Fritz Leiber's The Big Time, and his wheels within wheels plot-line was refined by Phillip K. Dick in many works.