I just read Escape from Camp 14 which I found after watching this vlogbrothers video:
Pretty much what he says should be enough to describe what happens in the book so I'm going to skip most of that detail.
My impression of the book is that it's a very heavy material to digest. I think that if more people read this, it would be good in a way that it would open up people's eyes on what is really happening in North Korea's concentration camp. At the same time though, this book, despite all of it's very well-done scenes of Shin's life after escaping from the camp all the way leading up to his final settlement in the US, I find it hard to enjoy the book at that point due to the very, very dark scenes of life in Camp 14 that would make even Winston's life in Airstrip One seems jolly in comparison.
Yes, this book, is way, way darker than Nineteen Eighty-Four in my opinion and it manages to be this way because it spends so little to almost none of any of the political issues about North Korea. All it is about, is how a kid who was born in a concentration camp escaped not because he wanted freedom, but because he wanted food. In fact, to drive the point home even further, Shin, unlike any other North Korean defectors, had never heard of Kim Il-Sung nor Kim Jong-Il because they never teach that kind of propaganda in the camps. He was a slave, nothing more.
So, if you like to read about North Korea, I highly recommend this book because it gives you powerful insight to a life that is even a secret to North Koreans. On the other hand, if you're looking for an entertaining read about a dystopian totalitarian society, this is not the book that you are looking for. That book would be Nineteen Eighty-Four.