I never connected with Shukhov, probably because I have never been in any similar situation, and because he has such a matter-of-fact attitude. In fact, it is rather commendable that he can be positive and focus on the simple, short term goals in a single day that can help him get through. He is living in the system and staying alive mentally and physically.
I found the introduction in my book was more interesting that the actual story, in my opinion. Khrushchev and his want to use Solzhenitsyn to separate himself from Stalin, rather than exposing the troubles of the USSR and its crimes, would have made a great read, and I am sure it's been written about already.