While it isn't the smoothest reading experience, due mostly to Hatfield's apparent disinterest for the sort of stylish flourishes that can make dryer subjects more exciting, leaving one in the position where every sentence could work as a final one--the book essentially stops rather than reaches an end--there's far too much original thought put into Hand of Fire to dismiss it for problems that revolve around ease-of-use. Over and over, Hatfield goes to Kirby's comics with an eye for both exploration and explanation, and if some of what he describes is familiar, none of it is discussed without care. From looking at the extensive list of cited works, it's clear that an extensive bit of synthesis is on display, and yet Hand of Fire never feels like a game of hopscotch amongst fanzines and thesis papers; if any title is necessary, it's easiest to call him a cartographer. Ultimately, this isn't the book that will convince doubters of Kirby's value--if Kirby's work can't do it, I have a hard time imagining what kind of book would--but it is an excellent primer for those of us already living in the temple, but incapable of turning wonder into words.
This is about as terrible as a smart, well-written book can get, a listless cruise through the shitty marriage of a couple of selfish intellectuals, courtesy of their obnoxious son-in-law, one of those personality-vampires that populate these sorts of novels. McEwan can do unlikeable people in wholly fascinating ways, but this time around he forgot to give them anything to do but complain about one another--then again, even at his best, McEwan seems incapable of playing the smart and self-righteous for laughs, which is really the best possible way to handle those people. For those interested in seeing how the multiple award winning movie adaptation having guy got where he is now, there's little evidence of it here, but I would still recommend this to the me that lived alone in Jersey City back in 2002. That depressing asshole would have binged on this bland sophistication and begged for more: oh that we can't go back and kill him now!
-Tucker Stone, 2012