It is actually a concrete story and not just this daunting monument of classic science fiction that I had envisioned in my mind.
Only after finishing this book did I realize that my expectations for it were influenced by my experience with works from Asimov. And apparently, this man is known for his gloriously emotionally dim books; basically using the concept of a novel to instead push forth his academic-style playthings. But Philip writes very engagingly and in a well-paced manner.
However, I ultimately still found the story and plot to be lacking in depth. Though it was good, it did not reach a point of highly captivating quality for me. In contrast, the mood or atmosphere put forth in the book is mostly what makes it interesting. This aspect of the work is also most aptly captured in the films it inspired, where it arguably works even more effectively.
The story left me with feelings of slight despair and emptiness; which I see as a feature, a conscious effect intended by the writer. For the kind of story Philip tells, I think he quite professionally massages you into its emotional state.
Having realized the diversity of classic science fiction, I now intend to read many more such works. From the many great bookshops in Amsterdam I already gathered a small trove of paper treasures: Joe Haldeman, Octavia E. Butler, Ian Banks, William Gibson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Fritz Leiber. And on my list I also wrote others: Peter Hamilton, Dan Simmons, Arthur C. Clarke, Orson Scott Card, Kurt Vonnegut. Now, I just need to read more.