wow, look at the circle-unprintable of joy! 2500 ratings, 4.41 rating, higher than Faulkner, Hemingway, and Einstein!
Demick has interviewed six (main) North Koreans and delivered to us what we already know, viz:
North Koreans are starving
all sorts of atrocities are occuring
the country is on the verge of collapse.
(... and then, dropping like hail, the waves of accolades, as we feel all privately self-congratulatory. whatever the heck we are, we are not North Koreans...)
anyway, this book, probably better than Aquariums, benefiting from Demick's great journalistic data-forward style, is a 3.8 or mid/low 4, but it is also fairly clearly exile-biased propaganda. I've spoken with a hundred North Koreans as well (all party members), and they are healthy, well-fed, and full of nothing but compliments for the regime.
there is a danger, of course, in only listening to one side of a story. if you only speak to every death row inmate in the US, you would get an image of a crime-ridden, hopeless, corrupt society that never gave any individual a chance. why no chat with the party leadership, Demick? even a few brief conversations with non-defectors (and if Demick is based in Beijing, there are thousands of north koreans there) would have provided a little balance to this
northkoreaisstarvingnorthkoreaiscollapsingnorthkoreaisdying 4.41 circle-lurk
nice writing; evocative description, just highly suspect in its conclusions.