I was totally enthralled by the Random House audio recording [19.5 hours] narrated mostly by Tim Kang. Some segments of the story are told in first person by a young interrogator/torturer who considers himself a biographer. There are also propaganda broadcasts throughout, which lighten the story with touches of humour. In the audio production, two additional narrators, Josiah D. Lee and James Kyson Lee, provide contrast for these sections.
"Good morning, Citizens! In your housing blocks, on your factory floors, gather 'round your loudspeakers for today's news: the North Korean table-tennis team has just defeated its Somali counterpart in straight sets! [...] Don't forget, it is improper to sit on the escalators leading into the subways. The Minister of Defense reminds us that the deepest subways in the world are for your civil-defense safety, should the Americans sneak-attack again. No sitting!"
Readalikes: The Lizard Cage (Karen Connelly) although it does not have the same epic scope. A good read-along is Pyongyang, Guy Delisle's true account in comics format of three months spent working in North Korea. The children playing accordions in Johnson's novel could be the very same girls depicted on the cover of Delisle's travelogue.