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Publisher's Summary

The shocking story of one of the few people born in a North Korean political prison to have escaped and survived.

North Korea is isolated and hungry, bankrupt and belligerent. It is also armed with nuclear weapons. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are being held in its political prison camps, which have existed twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. Very few born and raised in these camps have escaped - but Shin Dong-hyuk did.

In Escape from Camp 14, acclaimed journalist Blaine Harden tells the story of Shin Dong-hyuk and, through the lens of Shin’s life, unlocks the secrets of the world’s most repressive totalitarian state. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence: he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his own family. Through Harden’s harrowing narrative of Shin’s life and remarkable escape, he offers an unequaled inside account of one of the world’s darkest nations and a riveting tale of endurance, courage, and survival.

Blaine Harden is a contributor to the Economist and has formerly served as the Washington Post’s bureau chief in East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. He is the author of Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent and A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

©2012 Blaine Harden (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“If you have a soul, you will be changed forever by Blaine Harden’s  Escape from Camp 14…Harden masterfully allows us to know Shin, not as a giant but as a man, struggling to understand what was done to him and what he was forced to do to survive. By doing so,  Escape from Camp 14 stands as a searing indictment of a depraved regime and a tribute to all those who cling to their humanity in the face of evil.” (Mitchell Zuckoff,  New York Times best-selling author of  Lost in Shangri-La)
“This is a story unlike any other…More so than any other book on North Korea, including my own,  Escape from Camp 14 exposes the cruelty that is the underpinning of Kim Jong Il’s regime. Blaine Harden, a veteran foreign correspondent from the  Washington Post, tells this story masterfully…The integrity of this book shines through on every page.” (Barbara Demick, author of  Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea)
“With a protagonist born into a life of backbreaking labor, cutthroat rivalries, and a nearly complete absence of human affection, Harden’s book reads like a dystopian thriller. But this isn’t fiction - it’s the biography of Shin Dong-hyuk.” ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Compelling and important - marred by bad narration

What made the experience of listening to Escape from Camp 14 the most enjoyable?

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.

Who was your favorite character and why?

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.

Would you be willing to try another one of Blaine Harden’s performances?

Not likely, though I would read one of his books.

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

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.

Any additional comments?

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.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • dallas, TX, United States
  • 03-25-13

Everyone needs to know what is in this book

Would you listen to Escape from Camp 14 again? Why?

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.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

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.

What didn’t you like about Blaine Harden’s performance?

Well, he's a better writer than narrator. He had little inflection in his voice. But no worries. He's a great writer!

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

You need to understand North Korea

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Miriam
  • Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 03-12-13

Not for faint of heart.

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Lisa
  • Saint Augustine, FL, United States
  • 03-08-13

Poor narration, but good story

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Should have been a lot longer

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Modern day Night

Would you listen to Escape from Camp 14 again? Why?

No, the recording is a bit annoying with obvious edits too frequently.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Shin - Absolutely an amazing life.

Which character – as performed by Blaine Harden – was your favorite?

Same as above.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Disgust at the state of affairs of North Korea.

Any additional comments?

Recording could be much better.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathleen
  • Minneapolis, MN, USA
  • 08-28-12

A true story of a rare escape from North Korea.

Over several months, Blaine Harden interviewed one of the only people who successfully escaped from one of the prison camps in North Korea and who got out of the country. He had known nothing but this prison for his entire life. His family was placed there because his uncle tried to escape North Korea, and he was born there. For 23 years he lived with basically no love for anyone, or anyone for him, and with his only goal to survive and to have enough to eat. We get to see some of the transformation that had to occur taking him from almost an animal predator, to a man who learns something about giving and receiving love, and we know he still has a long way to go. He gets out of camp and manages to escape first to China, then to South Korea, and finally to the United States. It’s a very unsettling book and compelling reading.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Diane
  • OROVILLE, CA, United States
  • 08-14-12

Every American should read this

What did you like best about this story?

It gave me an insight to a culture I knew nothing about. And it exists as we go about our life in the USA very comfortable. Do we really understand how fortunate we are to have our freedom.

What about Blaine Harden’s performance did you like?

Fabulous

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Rick
  • Urcuquí, Ecuador
  • 07-03-12

Riveting

North Korea's massive prison camps are as inhospitable as some dead and distant moon in this first-person account by a man who was born and bred to work and die in Camp 14. As the saying goes, you can't make this stuff up. It is a story of unimaginable brutality, and eventually of a long and arduous escape against all odds. It would be a first, but if anything can dislodge the dynasty's inhuman stranglehold on a battered and starving nation, this is it.

Blaine Harden is the journalist who spent years extracting and researching the book, and its narrator. He does a good job of reading, but the production and editing are crude and amateurish. If that doesn't bother you, this is an important story to hear, and a gripping one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kevin
  • Charlottesville, VA, United States
  • 06-18-12

Fine

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I think as horrible as the topic is, it may have been better served by spending more time/description in the camp.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

I think as horrible as the topic is, it may have been better served by spending more time/description in the camp.

What three words best describe Blaine Harden’s voice?

Good, Crisp, Soothing

Was Escape from Camp 14 worth the listening time?

Anything I haven't heard before is worth the listening time to me, as I listen in lieu of the repitition of the radio to and from work. I always rate my experiences based on whether or not I could easily discontinue listening when my drive ended. I was able to turn this one off without craving more when I got to work/home.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful