This book was *freaking amazing* until about the last quarter, where it just fell apart into a big pile of wtf?.
I spent the whole book battling my crush on Captain Crozier (who, in the movie, is played by Justin Louis.) In the end, it's a battle I won, but only because the author took a jagged, incomprehensible knife to his own plot and stabbed it until it was nothing but a quivering heap of rapidly freezing crap.
For the three quarters of the book that made sense, the suspense was utterly gripping. I hated putting this book down every night. The plight of the men on the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus is vivid and heart-rending. The freezing cold they endure a major character for much of the story. The first hint of the creature is terrifying, its first incursions on the crew blood curdling. And you're desperate to know, What the hell is this thing?! And Simmons teases us for a long time, and the teasing is so good. It makes you gasp and gnash your teeth and beg for more. Unfortunately, when the big reveal comes it's so gigantically retarded and contrived that, were it an actual lover, you would have kicked them out of bed and demanded they change the sheets to remove the taint of what had just happened.
It's a supernatural book and I love supernatural stuff. Maybe the relentless realism of the first three quarters of the book did a grave disservice to the last quarter. Maybe had the first three quarters not been so mind numbingly awesome, the last quarter wouldn't have hurt so much. But it that really something you want to wish for? Can't I have such literally (honestly, I felt physically cold despite it being June) amazing, realistic chills mixed in with my equally chilling monsters? Did the story have to completely derail for me to get my monster? Crozier, the ultimate pragmatist and benign racist, went completely off the rails at the end. His shift was so discombobulating, such a 180 from what he had been, so far adrift from where you'd expect him to be at the "end" of his trials, that I spent all the time I was supposed to be awed at the great history of the monster and those that communed with it, being like, wait, what?
I love this book. The unmitigated tragedy of the last 100 pages can't undo the unmitigated fantasticness of the rest of it. Do I wish it had a different/better ending? OMGYESWITHMYWHOLEBODY. Will it stop me from recommending this book to friends? Probably not, but I'll always have to qualify the recommendation. And that makes me sad, not for the qualification itself, but because this book deserves and unqualified recommendation. It also deserves a decent ending.