It is an incredible story of overcoming. Even if you'd heard the story in synopsis but not read the book you won't be able to put it down.
This book lingered in my present consciousness for a long time. Very powerful.
This book needs to be translated into Chinese to hopefully lead to regime change in North Korea
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.
Eclectic, avid listener, favorite book is the one currently in ear.
I appreciated "Nothing to Envy" by Barbara Demick... the understanding it brought of the North Korean people and lifestyle meant a great deal to me... despite the poor narration and rough writing style. This book is much shorter and less convoluted as it follows just the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, who was born in detention Camp 14 in North Korea and knew no other life. It also has issues with writing style and narration... written in an irritating 3rd person and narrated by the author... however, I couldn't stop listening. The horrific mental and physical abuse he and his family suffered, his unbelievable escape and struggles adapting to freedom are heartbreaking. Mr. Harden's 3rd person style does allow him to explain the politics of the region and recent events. Very much worth my time to listen and learn.
JUST A SHOCKING BOOK!!!!!
In this day & age there is just no reason for such sick & disgusting behavior. Men like that should be ELIMINATED cuz theres just no saving scum like those who thought up of such a place!!!! what a book!!!!
I like to read mysteries and adventure. Also, I love it when pets are involved. I like to read about the North ....survival stories.
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 recommend buying this book.
This is North Korean escapee is unique since he should not have made it and he was born in the camps. The odds are astronomical.
Overall, the story was well researched and prefaced by the author. He gave good background material on the local, national, and international trends and conditions that provides the context for those not familiar with Korea. One thing that escapes the author, the escapee, and the general activist community why these camps are tolerated is that China needs North Korea since it is useful to them and no one from the other side (Japan, US, and RoK except the older generation) is interested in the expensive and dangerous unification with the PnK. The people in these camps will continue to suffer, live, and die horribly.
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."
I am a journalist and editor. I help people write personal, persuasive essays. It's fun work!
I would listen to this again if I feel I have forgotten how much evil there is in North Korea. This book is so sad. The worst part is that it is all verifiable. I found myself looking things up on Google and then just shaking my head in disbelief.
The writer does a great job of telling the story through the eyes of the escapee, but he also keeps us grounded by noting when things don't add up or when the story has changed over time. It's not just an emotional punch to the gut. It's factual.
Well, he's a better writer than narrator. He had little inflection in his voice. But no worries. He's a great writer!
You need to understand North Korea
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.