This book is so dated that for me it travels beyond being dated into portraying an oddly fascinating alternate reality. I think the future of this book may actually feel stranger to me now than it did to the people reading the book in 1953. They were confronted with a world of flying cars and miniature androids and bubble environments in space, but the strange new world was inhabited by people whose motivations and behaviors they accepted as recognizable. I am confronted by a world with all of those technological innovations, inhabited by people who seem like some sort of weird alien race.
The men in this novel are all and always engaged in status contests with one another for access to power over one another. Some are seeking power for altruistic reasons, some for selfish reasons, some out of fear, or hunger, or desperation, but all of them believe unquestioningly that the only way to get what they need is to struggle to rise in a hierarchy of dominance.
The women are some sort of strange symbiont creatures, almost entirely focused on finding a man or men to attach to and identify with. This identification is so complete that rejection by or loss of the symbiont threatens their sanity. These strange symbiont creatures are also prone to behaving like children, which is apparently some kind of sexual signaling device.
In addition both the status warriors and the symbiont clingers act out various psycho dramas strictly along Freudian lines, with ids, egos, and super egos all battling it out - causing people to suddenly burst into hysterical laughter in the middle of a fist fight or fall unconscious at a party because they've suddenly been confronted by an unacceptable sense memory of their absent father or their death wish has gotten tangled up with their life force and is causing an uncomfortable pulsation in their sex drive, or who knows what all. They are very odd creatures really.
Its been said that every reading of a novel is a little bit different because each reading is a collaboration between what the author wrote and what the reader brings to her understanding of it. In my case that collaboration has produced something rich and strange, a story of alien creatures struggling for dominance in a world that never was.