I'm detecting a certain amount of reservation for 2666 based on readers' dislike for Espinoza and Pelletier. No doubt I'm more sympathetic to these two than most (probably I resemble them too much), but how many of you really think affection for a character is requisite to appreciate their story? I recall Confederacy of Dunces once being touted by several hubskiers as their favourite novel; for all Espinoza and Pelletier's flaws, they're considerably more self-aware and exhibit far less bastardry than Ignatius J. Reilly. I guess this demonstrates the different expectations we have of heroes in comic novels than we do in novels like 2666.
That aside, and what surprises me most about this thread up to now, is that nobody's mentioned how hilarious this book is. Really, some of the university conference debates, and the early conversations between Pelletier and Espinoza to maintain their friendship while they are both sleeping with Norton, were comic gold. The scene with Espinoza trawling television channels for confirmation that Pelletier has been killed in a plane crash (and Norton greeting Pelletier with this news when he walks through the door) was brilliant. And how about Espinoza's take on Ring?
tl;dr: I fucking loved the first part. Can't wait to get started on the second.