This is certainly not a perfect book. There is a lot in it that turns me off; that doesn't sit right with me (The descriptions of Presteign and his contemporaries' lifestyles, the circus bufoonery and some of Bester's future vision for women) - These elements do not seem to fit with the rest of the book, and chapters which do not focus on the main character, Gully Foyle, are just nowhere near as interesting as the rest of the book.
But oh, the rest of the book - The other 70% - That's the reason why I'm giving this the full five stars, and why I do consider it, though not perfect, still one of the finest and most unique books I've ever read. First of all, the pace: This book reads faster than anything else I've come across. Without wanting to sound cliched, Bester's prose burns off the page at a speed somewhat faster than lightning. He moves effortlessly across continents and planets, from action scene to action scene, all in the space of a typical chapter. The action is blinding (Bester wrote a lot of comics, earlier in his career, and it really shows), often violent and visceral in a way that I just didn't believe '50s novels could be, and Foyle is a madman, more than a man, a towering anti-hero. Yes, Foyle: One of the best characters ever created. Perhaps 'anti-hero' wasn't fair - He defies description. You just have to read about him. He changes so much during his adventures, and all in a totally believable way. Lastly, I want to mention the actual technology, the sci-fi: It has not, on the whole, dated badly. Most of it still seems wonderful and far-flung, though believable, today. And better than that, it's cool! In one of the best chapters of the novel, Bester introduces nano-augmentation and proceeds through a blistering set of action scenes that easily out-Matrix 'The Matrix.' This is hot, hot stuff! And, of course, there is the central idea of a wild new breakthrough in travel that changes the whole of human civilization - 'Jaunting.' Perhaps I am not well-read enough; Perhaps Bester was not the first to come up with an idea like this, but I've certainly never read anything like it. It's wonderful, and the newfound human ability of transporting oneself a thousand miles in a couple of seconds just adds to the frenetic, driving pace of Bester's stripped-bare, hi-frequency narrative.
'The Stars My Destination' dazzles, delights and addicts. Not just one of the best SF novels ever, but one of the best novels ever. I've just finished reading it for the first time, and I don't think I'll ever forget it.