Finished Moby Dick, and really enjoyed it.
Like most of the modern reviewers I’ve seen, I was surprised first of all by the humour, particularly in the first part of the book. And not just the humour, but also the easygoing and charming tone of the narrator. One of the other things I found charming is just how little the book cares about most of what we consider obvious rules of novel writing. Possibly some of that is the style of the time, I’m no expert, but you get the feeling that Melville doesn’t give a rat’s ass, he is writing exactly the book he wants to write and if that means switching viewpoints suddenly after hundreds of pages of a single narrator, or taking what is essentially a 200 page novella and inserting a 400 page book of mini-essays on whales and whaling in the middle, well so be it.
But the thing that surprised me the most is how sftnal it felt to me. Being steeped in genre makes me see it everywhere I suppose, but two thirds of this book is essentially HUGE infodumps. But they’re lovingly written, by an author who could probably write three more volumes on whaling and whales. I couldn’t help but think of a Neal Stephenson book, or the KSR Mars Trilogy. Melville gives you an outsider narrator in an essentially alien world who then describes it to an audience that he expects will know nothing about it. It is fascinating (for the most part, I admit I skimmed the last 50 pages or so of the middle) and sometimes just beautiful.