C. A. Dees
This is an important story for anyone concerned about the struggle for human rights in the world. It is almost inconceivable that the man at the center of this story, Shin Dong Hyuk, was able to survive the brutality of perhaps the most notorious prison in North Korea, but even more so, to escape and find his own sense of humanity and a modicum of peace.
Shin's fellow inmate who tells him stories about life outside the prison, and in so doing, introduces Shin to the idea of kindness for kindness's sake -- a book about that alone would be fascinating.
Not likely, though I would read one of his books.
That the most brutal prisons in North Korea don't bother to indoctrinate prisoners about "the Great Leader," etc., because there's no point. Those prisoners aren't leaving and there is no pretense of re-education along the party line. They are, simply, slaves.
While the text itself was good (if a little lacking in passion) the narration was truly awful. The author's reading itself was tolerable, though monotone and without any real inflection. However, that, combined with choppy editing, varying sound levels and equalization, made for a difficult listening experience over the span of several hours. This seemed to be edited by someone who had no experience editing voice recordings. Breaths are cut off, there are no pauses between sentences or even paragraphs, and there was little awareness of flow. A book this important deserves a thoughtful, professional narration.
I love personal memoirs, and this one is particularly well done and engaging. There is a good balance of Shen's personal story and the overall politics of North Korea and how it fits into the world.
The pace of the story and its editing are very good. The story kept my attention and the reader/author is better than most. I was leery, because I find that authors who read their own works are usually not the best narrators.
Although many memoirs are touching and emotionally provoking, I found this book to really hit a chord about understanding the impossibility of growing up to be a normal functioning human when one is raised under inhumane conditions. PTSD to the nth degree. Shen and similarly neglected and abused persons, I think, require much support to live in the world at large, with all of its sensory overload and social complexity. Although I knew about North Korea and many of its deplorable conditions, the people of North Korea now have a daily place in my heart, and I pray for them, each and every one.
Can this be true? Its ridiculous that a human condition and psyche can be created like this.
Its a fascinating story and worth listening to.
The reader was a bit monotonous and there were clear audio edits all the time with different quality and mics.
Let me begin by saying that, despite the mediocre rating, this book contains vitally important information that everyone should hear. The author presents us with Shin's life in a North Korean work camp, his escape from the camp and from North Korea, and his life following his freedom. He also offers up alarming information regarding North Korea's regime and leaders, the terrible living conditions of its people, and the political issues surrounding the totalitarian terrorist state.
Most of the book is taken up by Shin's life. The conditions he describes in Camp 14 are hideous and appalling. It is reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps except that these have been around for half a century, long enough for the guards to raise new generations of prisoners that have never known freedom. The mentality of these children is something close to psychopathy, knowing nothing of compassion, empathy, love, or anything else beyond the selfish needs of survival. It has been ingrained in them to watch their fellow prisoners and snitch to the guards about any infractions. They feel no loyalty to anyone. Shin betrays his own family to the authorities with no remorse (at the time). The picture he paints resembles a Milgram psychology experiment with moral abandon for the goal of producing the perfect prisoners. This part of the book was both fascinating and horrifying.
The rest is his journey from the camp to ultimate safety in the west, detailing his mental and physical transition from captive to free man. A good deal of it is devoted to the interplay between North Korea, China, and South Korea, mainly in how they treat North Korean refugees. At the same time, Shin's consciousness begins a remarkable transformation as he begins to learn of normal human relations and emotions, experiencing his first pangs of guilt and remorse while learning to live with personal responsibility. His efforts in the U.S. to educate others about his story is also told.
The reason for the low performance rating is that the audio has been mangled. It is painfully obvious that different parts have been spliced together, as the volume and pitch of the speaker frequently change abruptly. Furthermore, the general layout for the book is haphazard. The timeline is scrambled and the insertions by the author with interesting facts are, seemingly, placed at random. A disappointing book for such a vitally important subject.
All told, the information in this book needs to be disseminated as widely as possible. It sheds light not only on the deplorable and internationally illegal human rights crimes that North Korea and China are involved in but also on the political barriers of all involved countries that are preventing improvement. Even knowing beforehand that North Korea was a brainwashing hell-hole of a country that presents a psychopathic terrorist face to the rest of the world, I was shocked by what I learned in this book and I am also now more informed on how it might be helped.
I highly recommend that everyone listen to this book to learn more about what is possibly the blackest stain on humanity's reputation that is currently in existence. It will be especially fascinating to those interested in politics, psychology, and human rights.
I just could not believe how bad it is in North Korea. This is a tale of
complete desperation. I still find it hard to imagine people must live
like this today.
I am a 30 year old over-the-road truck driver. I listen to A LOT of audiobooks!
I really enjoyed this book. It sheds light on things I simply never knew existed. The conditions and dehumanizing treatment the central character and everyone he knew were forced to endure was tragic. I guess it is just because I come from an affluent country but I never before met someone that considered plain rice "food for the rich."
Likes books and reading/listening
This harrowing tale will perhaps help you feel more appreciative of the basics: freedom to choose what you want to eat, and when. Freedom to fall in love with whoever you want. Freedom to dream about the future or the past, or both. The story is painful and compelling especially in the beginning, when the book concentrates on the boy's life in Camp 14, and on his escape. Life in the "West"? "Capitalism"? offers its own treachery that is not easy to navigate. That's true of so many of us raised in this world. All the harder for basically a person who has lived on another planet his whole life.
If you are really interested in the content of this book, the narration is bearable. If you're only somewhat interested, the narration will probably kill the book for you. If you are not looking specifically for a story about someone who was born in one of these camps escaping, I think Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy is a much better book both in performance and story. I'd recommend listening to Nothing to Envy before Escape from Camp 14.
I've read a number of books about North Korea so nothing in this was a surprise but that doesn't mean it wasn't incredibly interesting and an amazing story.
With that said it does feel like the author kind of rushes the story along -- based on his comments I'm assuming this is due to a lack of information provided to him. I would have loved to hear pretty much everything in this book in much more detail.
The reader, who is apparently the author, is average at best and is then further brought down a notch by a bad editing job that seems to remove gaps at end of sentences so you end up hearing what sounds like a run-on sentence. Horrible editing job, whoever put the audio together should be fired and sent to a North Korean prisons camp.
Still with that said I still highly recommend this book for anyone that has even a remote interest in the subject.
No, the recording is a bit annoying with obvious edits too frequently.
Shin - Absolutely an amazing life.
Same as above.
Disgust at the state of affairs of North Korea.
Recording could be much better.