So, apparently I was so fascinated by the Antarctica and Navy SEAL bits in the blurb that I completely failed to pay attention to the mentions of alcohol. Given that oversight, my expectations for this book ended up being worlds away from what it really ended up being, and I'm afraid my opinion of the book may suffer as a result.
However, now that I've gone back and re-read the blurb, it doesn't ever mention that Max is an alcoholic, nor that 90% of the book will focus on his downward spiral.
I'm perfectly happy to read books about recovering addicts and to cheer them on toward their happy endings. I don't mind books about difficult subjects like alcoholism or rough childhoods or loss, as long as I'm given sufficient time with the healing/recovering character to feel like they're really better and to end the book with the (perhaps overly naive (but this IS fiction...)) assurance that healing and recovery are possible.
This book did not leave me with that hope. I know it ended happily, and I'm glad. But WAY too much of the short-ish book was spent on Max's downward spiral. I kept looking at the number of pages I had left shrinking and wondering if he was EVER going to finally hit his rock bottom and start recovering. It made the book terribly painful to read, and it made his final turn-around less believable. This may be due more to the fact that the happy ending had to be stuffed into the last 10% of the really depressing book.
Other than that, I did love the setting, and Max's love of diving under the Antarctic ice was very well described. But for most of the book, he's too drunk to be allowed to dive, so that just ended up adding to the general depressive vibe of the book.
To sum up: very depressing story with too little time given to the recovery and eventual happy-ish ending, but set in a fascinating and very fresh-feeling environment.