That’s not to say he’s not a good writer. He is. And it’s understated writing. The writing is not showy, but deft. The characters are not flamboyant for the most part, but you can feel their souls shimmer in the writing. The story does not stomp on plot points, it coasts a smooth circle around them like an ice-skater. And at times, the touch feels almost too light, and left me hungry for more. I’m not entirely sure I would call that a flaw, though.
In short, this is a story that in style is an exact opposite of the showy Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. However, as an interesting aside, they both use exactly the same plot device: a shrill, annoying socialite running a bohemian party.
This is another story, like Aldiss’s Non-Stop that shows that a fully conceptualized world – and this case, alien race – will make a story stronger and almost force the action and story to rachet up to a break-neck pace toward the end.
There is also an important lesson for writers: creativity. Blish is creative with his science, which is amusing-ironic, since this is a story about creation and the nature of it. “What if” in speculative fiction requires a jump into other-ness. My favorite example in this story was the alien race. Small dinosaurian creatures, the Lithians, could sense an individual’s genetic make-up the way we see color and hear noise.
That is so cool.