Sunday, January 25, 2015

'Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West' by Blaine Harden


New York Times bestseller, 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 Donghyuk 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.

*This will be a short review. A very short one. There isn't much for me to say. 

Let me say this first.
Humanity is a very cruel group of beings.
We fight. We kill. We willingly kill. (Ehem. Genocide.) 
Now. Know this. I don't read nonfiction. I really don't. I'm not against it; I just don't like it. I will put that aside to write this review, though. I had to read it for my book trivia. I won't say I liked reading it. 

I liked how this book painted a picture of Shin's story with the gory details.
It showed the pain and struggle of this North Korean escapee. It was raw emotion. It wasn't painted over. It was pure emotion. Pure struggle. Pure suffering. It's not covered. It's not hidden. It's the struggle. The humanity laid out. 
This book shows how cruel humanity is. It really does. You can see how much torture Shin went through. How much pain. This book isn't fiction. But it does seem like it. How can people do that? Why? Why? Those are great questions. But we might never get answers. 

I admired Shin. He was strong. He snitched. But he had to survive. You do what you need to survive. You don't really think about everyone else. You focus on yourself. He didn't hide that he was a snitch. He snitched for his life. (If that makes sense.) 
He might not think he's strong. He might never. But he is strong. He is brave in odd ways. He's a survivor. A fighter. Even if he did snitch. He survived. He survived.

I didn't like that the story was interrupted by the historical aspects and other people's stories. I prefer pure fiction/story. This is nonfiction, I know, so it must have facts. But I prefer when I get a straight out story. Admittedly, I know there are reasons for the information. But they annoyed me. Even if I saw this as a nonfiction book. 
I would have preferred a story through and through. But I had to accept this. I had to.

I didn't like the way the story doesn't seem to end. It just...tapers off. I didn't like that. I would have preferred the ending. What Shin did then. Did he end up happy? Did he end up assimilating? What did he do? I wanted to know things. What happened to the other North Koreans? Did they end up happy? What about his father? I had things I wanted to know. And I didn't get many answers. His story doesn't get an ending. His story isn't done. But I would have preferred something else. 

Sunny with a 50% chance of rain

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