I really liked it. In the beginning when I was getting to know the characters they seemed a lot more modern than I was expecting. I guess human nature hasn’t really changed all that much in 160 years, and a good writer can capture the timeless truth about people. The story becomes more and more fantastic and the writing more stylized as the book goes on, until it’s very Shakespearean: filled with symbolism, grand drama and tragedy at the end.
Melville inserts a lot of explanation about whaling in between the progress of the story. They’re necessary to understand the plot and mostly very interesting, but sometimes they get a little dull. That was the only thing I didn’t enjoy.
But other than that, I was really happy to read it. I also liked recognizing a passage Stephen Fry quoted on QI! “Ere long, it is taken down; when removing some three feet of it, towards the pointed extremity, and then cutting two slits for armholes at the other end, he lengthwise slips himself bodily into it. The mincer now stands before you invested in the full canonicals of his calling.”