The Orphan Master's Son is a 2012 novel by Adam Johnson. It's an interesting view of North Korea for me. I don't recall ever having read a novel that took place there, and all I know of the country is what I see in the news. This adds a more personal perspective.
from the back of the book:
Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother -a singer "stolen" to Pyongyang- and an influential father who runs a work camp for orphans. Superiors in the North Korean state soon recognize the boy's loyalty and keen instincts. Considering himself "a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world," Jun Do rises in the ranks. He becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jun Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress "so pure, she didn't know what starving people looked like."There's a 42 in this book, though it's not the answer to anything:
In this epic, critically acclaimed tour de force, Adam Johnson provides a riveting portrait of a world rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love.
We were finalizing a month-long interrogation of a professor from Kaesong when a rumor spread through the building that Commander Ga had been apprehended and was here, in custody, in our own Division 42.In this book Division 42 is a place for torture. No useful answers at all come from such a place.
...It would've been easy to get the professor to confess, but that's not us, we don't work that way. You see, Division 42 is really two divisions.
This meets one of my reading challenges, as it won a fairly recent Pulitzer Prize. Reviews are positive.